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Russia, Italy to hold consultations on Libya

Russian foreign minister says Moscow, Rome hold special consultations on issue of Libyan settlement

Elena Teslova   | 18.02.2020
Russia, Italy to hold consultations on Libya Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (2nd L), Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu (L), Italy's Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio (2nd R) and Italian Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini (R) attend a joint press conference at the end of a bilateral meeting at Villa Madama in Rome, Italy, on February 18, 2020. ( Riccardo De Luca - Anadolu Agency )


Russia on Tuesday announced it would in several weeks hold "special consultations" with Italy on a possible solution to the ongoing conflict in Libya.

Speaking at a news conference in Rome following a meeting between Russian and Italian foreign and defense ministers, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow was particularly interested in clarifying the details of a new EU mission to monitor compliance with the arms embargo on Libya.

"Our position is that it is necessary to respect the decisions of the [UN] Security Council and not to take steps that would be considered disrespectful to the prerogatives of this supreme UN body in the field of maintaining international peace and security," said Lavrov.

On Monday, EU members agreed in principle to set up a new naval mission to monitor compliance with the UN arms embargo on Libya.

The new mission will operate in the air and sea, as well as through satellites, to ensure all countries respect the ban on providing arms to the parties involved in the Libyan conflict.

Lavrov underlined the need for the UN Security Council to authorize the decision, recalling the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in an international operation in 2011, that he said took advantage of a UN-sanctioned no-fly zone above the country.

"We are well aware of the legitimate, understandable reasons pushing Italy to bring order to this issue and the reasons why the EU countries are interested in ensuring that weapons are not delivered to Libya via illegal routes. I am convinced that by contacting the Security Council, they will be able to get a solution that will suit them and ensure compliance with international law, including the prerogatives of the Security Council," Lavrov said.

In turn, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said the new mission was created based on a UN mandate to monitor the implementation of the arms embargo.

Maio said the mission would employ satellites to monitor the country from space, adding that navy ships would function as a "barrier" against arms deliveries along its coasts. He added that -- should Libya agree -- it would also involve patrols along the country's land borders.

"Air and sea patrols will be carried out by military ships and aircraft, but the approach will be non-military. If we do not allow the import of weapons, the two sides will be forced to start a dialogue," he stressed.

Libya's legitimate government had been under attack by Haftar since last April, claiming the lives of more than 1,000 people.

Since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in Libya: warlord Khalifa Haftar in eastern Libya, supported mainly by Egypt and the UAE, and the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, which enjoys the UN and international recognition.

On Jan. 12, the conflict parties announced a cease-fire in response to a joint call by the Turkish and Russian leaders. But talks last week for a permanent cease-fire deal ended without an agreement after Haftar left Moscow without signing the deal.

On Jan. 19, Haftar accepted at the Berlin conference on Libya to designate members to a UN-proposed military commission with five members from each side to monitor implementation of the cease-fire.


Following the meeting, Russia's Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu urged for a settlement in Syria as well, calling on Western countries to lift sanctions on the Bashar al-Assad regime, at least on fuel and medical supplies.

"Over the past year, an average of 1,200 refugees have returned to Syria from Lebanon and Jordan every day. People are drawn to their homes. One of the issues that need to be resolved is the lifting of, at least, a small part of the sanctions imposed on Syria," he said.

Syria has only just begun to emerge from a devastating conflict that began in 2011 when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected ferocity.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed or displaced in the conflict, mainly by regime airstrikes targeting opposition-held areas.

In September 2018, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

But more than 1,800 civilians have been killed in attacks by regime and Russian forces since then, flouting both the 2018 cease-fire and a new one that started on Jan. 12.

More than 1.7 million Syrians have moved near the Turkish border due to intense attacks over the past year. 

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