On December 13, 2017, the Valdai Discussion Club held a panel discussion with the participation of Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Taher Siala and head of the Russian contact group on the intra-Libyan settlement Lev Dengov. The high-ranking guests spoke about the progress of the peace settlement in Libya and Russia's role.
In Libya there are two main centers of power: in Tripoli (the National Accord Government and the Presidential Council, headed by Fayez Al-Sarraj) and in Tobruk (the House of Representatives and the Military Council, headed by Khalifa Haftar). According to Lev Dengov, the main principle of Russian policy toward Libya means working with all parties, and the Libyan side recognizes and values it. The Russian diplomat noted that the representatives of the official authorities behave "very professionally" and highly appreciate the actions of the Russian contact group.
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Libya confirmed this. "Moscow always plays a positive role in the [intra-Libyan settlement] process. Mr. Sarraj can come here and talk with the Prime Minister and Minister Lavrov," Mohamed Taher Siala said.
At the same time, in Tripoli, Russia is often unofficially accused of too close interaction with Khalifa Haftar. According to Dengov, this is the result of the propaganda made by Haftar himself, who, after returning to Libya from Moscow, emphasized his close relations with Russia in every possible way. Western media eagerly picked up this issue, introducing Haftar as an ally of Russia, stressed the head of the Russian contact group on the intra-Libyan settlement. In fact, Russia is working with all parties, including tribes in the south of Libya and other representatives of the country with aim to achieve universal consensus, he said.
According to Dengov, the security situation in the capital of the country has improved significantly. "Many representatives of the southern tribes go to Tripoli to start negotiations," Dengov said. Mohamed Taher Siala urged Russia to reopen its embassy in Tripoli (after an armed attack in 2013, it was evacuated from the country and at present Russia's interests in Libya are represented by the embassy in Tunisia). "We always ask our Russian friends to reopen the embassy in Tripoli. Because in this way we can be closer, "said the Libyan Foreign Minister.
The issue of the revival of Russian-Libyan economic cooperation was also raised. Russian oil companies are returning to Libya, Dengov said. "I was lucky to see our compatriots from Tatneft in Tripoli," he said. "They are very optimistic about continuing to work in Libya. Do not forget that we have a lot of signed contracts with this country."
Siala stressed, that the Libyan government is interested in the arrival of Russian companies on the market that would help restore oil production. Moreover, the Foreign Minister said that Libya intends to work with Russia to develop the largest Elephant oil field.
Another area of cooperation is the construction sector. "We urge all companies, including construction companies, to come back. The country is safe, you can return your business to Libya," Siala concluded.