By Libya Herald reporters.
Benghazi, 18 January2017:
The Libyan National Army has denied that armed forces commander-in-chief Khalifa Hafter has signed any arms deal with the Russians.
It has been widely reported that Hafter inked an agreement for the supply of $2 billion of Russian arms while he was visiting the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov a week ago. The source of the story was said to be a member of the House of Representatives named as Ismail Ghoul speaking to the London-based Al-Arab newspaper.
Photos from Hafter’s carrier visit showed him signing something but it looked more like a visitors’ book than an arms contract. This was what LNA spokesman Colonel Ahmed Mismari said today had caused Hafter to pull out his pen.
Mismari added that existing contracts with Moscow [from the Qaddafi era] for the supply of spare parts and weapons worth up to $4.2 billion remained frozen under the 2011 UN arms embargo.
There seems little doubt that Moscow is looking to build on its diplomatic success in Syria by showing favour to Hafter and the House of Representatives as a counterbalance to the rest of international community’s support for the Presidency Council and the Government of National Accord. But Russia has also insisted that it supports the UNSMIL-brokered Libyan Political Agreement. It has equally protested that it backs the UN arms embargo.
Since the LPA spells out that the GNA cannot become operational until it has been endorsed by the HoR, which the parliament has so far refused to do, Russia has the legalistic cover to continue to deal with the east.
Though there are few signs of it working with the interim government of Abdullah Thinni which was appointed by the HoR, it has established seemingly-warm relations with Hafter, whom the parliament appointed to head the armed forces.
One of the key LPA sticking points for the HoR has been the transfer of its authority over the military to the Presidency Council.