Friday

22nd Jun 2018

Malta raises alarm on Russia in Libya

  • The Kuznetsov, with smoke in the background, in 2012 (Photo: royalnavy.mod.uk)

A Russian-backed Libyan warlord could start a “civil war” in Libya, increasing refugee flows to the EU, Malta has warned.

The danger comes as the Libyan commander, Khalifa Haftar, advances on Tripoli, the seat of the UN-recognised government, Malta’s foreign minister, George Vella, told press in Valletta on Friday (13 January).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

  • Fall of Gaddafi in 2011 led to the lawless situation in Libya (Photo: Martin Beek)

“Haftar with his army is moving gradually, slowly from the east to the west … and possibly, eventually linking up with his colleagues from the west, from Zintane, and advancing in a pincer movement on the region of Bani Walid, Misrata, and Tripoli”, Vella said.

“That would be disastrous because it would create civil war and it would create more refugees running away from Libya”, he said.

Vella also raised the alarm on Haftar’s contacts with Russia.

He said Russia had so far respected a UN embargo on weapons transfers to Libya, even though Haftar had been “going to Moscow asking for arms”.

But he added that Moscow, which has funded Haftar, had a strategic interest in establishing a foothold in the central Mediterranean.

“It’s very difficult to predict what’s going to happen”, Vella said.

"I'm not comfortable. We all know the Russians' dreams have always been to have [military] bases in the Mediterranean”, he said.

Haftar, on Thursday, toured Russia’s aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, as it was sailing from Syria.

He also held a video call with Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu in which they discussed “urgent issues in the fight against international terrorist groups in the Middle East”, a Russian statement said.

Collapsing state

The EU, with the Maltese presidency at its helm for the next six months, is keen to strike a deal with the Libyan government in Tripoli, the GNA, on reducing the flow of migrants to Europe.

Libya became the primary route for asylum seekers after the EU closed the Western Balkan corridor, with the refugee crisis high on the political agenda in France and Germany.

Even without the Haftar problem, the EU was finding it hard to make headway.

Another warlord, Khalifa Ghwell, tried to stage an anti-GNA coup in Tripoli on Thursday, highlighting the fragility of the country.

“At the moment, things are not happy in Tripoli,” Malta’s Vella said on Friday.

“Libya is on the brink of becoming a failed state. Let’s hope we won't go that far”, he said.

He added that the GNA and Italy had held talks on a potential migrant deal, but that they were “far, far apart” in their positions.

Russia and Syria

Valla spoke with the GNA prime minister, Fayez Sarraj, on Thursday.

EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels for the first time in 2017 aim to speak mainly about the war in Syria and the Middle East Peace Process.

An EU diplomat said “there will be a debate about Russia’s role in the Syrian conflict … but no specific debate on Russia itself”. He said Libya “should be” discussed in February.

Russia has been accused of war crimes for targeting civilians and hospitals in Syria.

It is fighting on the side of the Syrian regime, which has allowed it to expand its naval base in the country.

Russia’s Syria campaign has also drawn accusations that it was trying to influence French and German politics by increasing refugee flows to Europe via Turkey.

Speaking in Brussels on Friday, the departing US ambassador to the EU, Anthony Gardner, said Russian president Vladimir Putin was not a partner for the West.

"To think that Russia is somehow seeking to promote our shared agenda is folly”, he said.

He added that it would be “inconceivable and shameful if we would consider lightening sanctions on Russia”, referring to EU and US economic sanctions, which were imposed over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Trump card

The incoming US president, Donald Trump, is a wild card in Russia relations, however.

He has praised Russia, but his nominees for US security chiefs have condemned its actions.

Another EU priority is to see where Trump stands on the Middle East peace process.

Trump has said he might move the US embassy from Tel Aviv, Israel’s internationally-recognised capital, to Jerusalem, which it claimed by conquest from Palestine.

"If he does all the threats he said he would, he will not just violate EU policy, but also international order”, a senior EU diplomat said.

EU mulls Turkey-type migrant deal with Libya

The Maltese EU presidency said a "similar approach" to the Turkey deal could stop migrants coming from Libya, but the UN said the plan was a non-starter.

EU unveils €200m Libya migrant project

The EU commission has earmarked €200 million to enhance surveillance and better train the Libyan coastguard to stop migrants coming to Europe.

Opinion

Europe could lose out in North Korean bonanza

South Korean businesses including Hyundai and Samsung are already scoping investment opportunities. Will North Korea become a 'new Vietnam' opportunity - or more like Myanmar, where slow Brussels policy-making meant EU exporters lost out.

News in Brief

  1. Venice Commission: Hungary should repeal NGO law
  2. Trump threatens to slap 20 percent tariff on EU cars
  3. EU closes deficit procedure against France
  4. Romania's ruling party leader gets jail sentence
  5. EU states defer individual decisions on asylum reforms
  6. Commission opens case on Qatar gas flow
  7. EU adopts posted workers directive
  8. EU leaders to call for 'coordinated plan' on AI

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMHRMI Launches Lawsuits Against Individuals and Countries Involved in Changing Macedonia's Name
  3. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  4. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  6. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  10. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  11. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network

Latest News

  1. Migration row at centre of EU summit This Week
  2. Merkel's woes cast shadow on EU's future
  3. Europe's tech race - trying to keep pace with US and China
  4. Merkel and Juncker's mini-summit risks fiasco
  5. Greece and creditors proclaim 'end of crisis'
  6. How a US firm pushed for EU €2.1trn pension fund
  7. Commission defends Africa migrant plan ahead of summit
  8. Bavaria hijacks EU migration talks

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  2. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  4. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  5. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  7. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  9. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  10. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  11. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  12. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us