Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, after a meeting with Tunisian Minister of Foreign Affairs Khemaies Jhinaoui, said “We know about what’s being discussed openly and not so openly on plans of military intervention, including with the situation in Libya. Our common position is that this is possible only under the UN Security Council’s decision,”
“A possible mandate for an operation against terrorists in Libya must be defined unambiguously so as not to allow perverted and false interpretations.” it is telling that the common position of Tunisia and Russia is not an opposition to an intervention, only to one without UN approval.
Presumably, an intervention upon request from a yet to be installed Libyan Government of National Accord.
The formation of a Government of National Accord (GNA) is currently at an impasse, as a minority faction within the internationally recognized House of Representatives (HOR) in Tobruk has prevented a vote on a proposed list of government ministers. Blocked from voting, 100 members of the HOR signed a petition in favor of approving the proposed government.
The United Nation’s Security Council also issued a statement today in which it called “for the House of Representatives to uphold its responsibilities in implementing all relevant provisions of the Libyan Political Agreement” adding the “The members of the Security Council noted that the Political Dialogue valued the declaration signed by a majority of the members of the House of Representatives on 23 February announcing their support for the Government of National Accord.”
The phrase echoes statements made by the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) envoy Martin Kolber, who has all but officially called for the declaration/petition signed by the HOR deputies to be recognized as an approval.
Calls this weekend from Kolber and the Foreign Ministers of France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Germany along with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and EU High Representative Federica Mogherini for the GNA to begin operating from Tripoli, with or without a formal HOR vote, are all but a declaration that in the eyes of the international community the GNA is now considered their Libyan interlocutor.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has led calls for sanctions to be imposed “against whoever in either camp prevents the government from taking office.”
If the HOR in Tobruk is being bypassed, which seems to be the case, that leaves the Islamist General National Congress (GNC) that has controlled Tripoli since it ousted the HOR in 2014 after refusing to recognize the results of elections.
The GNC has arrested and currently holds several members of a temporary security committee who were sent to Tripoli to prepare the arrival the UNSMIL and now it seems internationally recognized GNA.
Note that Ayrault did not threaten sanctions on those who fail to approve the government. Also note that Russia is not likely to block any action against the Islamist GNC in Tripoli, which was armed in its takeover of Tripoli by Turkey. Lastly note that Tunisia and Russia only said they oppose an intervention that does not include the Security Council, a Security Council that is moving towards an intervention.
Lavrov’s, the Security Council’s and the western government’s ministerial meeting’s statements on Libya were largely eclipsed by the surprising news that Russia would pull some of its forces out of Syria.
So too was Tunisian and Russian bilateral economic cooperation, was an agenda item of secondary importance to pushed back seemed an afterthought to the discussions on Libya.
Although those issues will be, according to a statement from Tunisia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, discussed at the sixth session of the joint committee of the Tunisian Russia which will be held in Moscow from March 29 to April 1.
Where both sides will seek to further cooperation on trade which saw Russia lower its tariffs on certain Tunisian products in January by 25%.