Russian President, Vladimir Putin, is challenging the US and Europe as well as rising regional power Turkey with a bid to elevate into power in Libya Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, according to three people in Moscow with knowledge of the efforts speaking to Bloomberg.
“The US State Department warned of grave threats to regional stability and global commerce posed by foreign actors exploiting the conflict. It singled out Russia, expressing concern at its destabilizing influence, adding that the Libyan people must decide their own leaders.” The report says.
It adds: “Russia is pressuring Khalifa Haftar to support his one-time rival Saif Al-Islam in what would be an unbeatable election combination, according to the people. Still, three others in Libya said that Haftar, a 77-year-old general who controls the east of the country, himself wants to contest the presidency. All asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of Libya’s political landscape.”
Haftar’s spokesman, Ahmed Al-Mismari, said they haven’t decided yet, adding that the situation depends on the constitutional base on which the elections are held and the election law, both of which have not been issued yet.
The report indicated that Al-Mismari had batted away any suggestion that Haftar was being pressed to back Saif Al-Islam, saying that he didn’t have information on the matter and no one has yet declared their candidacy for Libya elections.
“For Putin, who was horrified at Gaddafi’s brutal death captured on film, Libya is a deeply personal issue and he feels responsibility for Saif Al-Islam, said a person close to the Kremlin. Russia’s president at the time, a Putin protege, abstained in a UN vote that paved the way for Gaddafi’s toppling after 42 years in power.” The report added.
It says the Kremlin’s ploy, if successful, would boost Russia’s clout in the Middle East after Putin successfully intervened to prop up Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad.
“While he’s also bolstered authoritarian leaders in Venezuela and Belarus, bringing back Gaddafi rule would mark Putin’s boldest move yet. It would mean that Russia is capable of tearing to shreds what the West did,” said Sergei Markov, a political consultant to the Kremlin.
Russia is confident of Egypt’s support for its plan, according to two of the people in Moscow, although there were suggestions in Cairo that it’s too early for Egypt to decide its position.
Moscow also has the tacit acceptance of Italy, which until now had kept closest to the rival Tripoli government, said one informed person in the Russian capital, who added that the U.A.E. and France opposed the plan.