Russia will deliver weapons to support the Libyan government if a United Nations weapons embargo is lifted, said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, the country’s special envoy to the Middle East and Africa, on Thursday. Egypt and Libya have both requested that the arms embargo, which has been in place since 2011, be lifted so that Libya can combat the threat of ISIS and bring order to the civil war that has raged for nearly a year.
“The issue will be discussed at the U.N. Security Council. The basic understanding — and we share this — is that there are legally elected authorities in Libya,” Bogdanov said. “Of course, we would like to really help Libya’s authorities to strengthen the state power bodies, army and law enforcement forces.”
Under the dictatorship of Moammar Gadhafi, which began in 1969 and ended in mid-2011, Libya bought much of its military hardware from the Soviet Union and then latterly Russia. But since the U.N. intervention, which brought with it the embargo, Russian sales of military equipment and parts for previously sold equipment have ended.
“Traditionally, we had very successful military and technical cooperation with Libya. We are ready to resume this cooperation, but for this the common understanding in the U.N. Security Council is needed,” said Bogdanov, who also mentioned concerns about those weapons falling into the wrong hands.
The discussion of Russia supplying weapons to Libya previously was raised by Russia’s permanent representative to the United Nations in February. Vitaly Churkin, like Bogdanov, said he feared Libyan forces could be overwhelmed and the weapons end up in the hands of rebel groups or the Islamic State group, as was the case with U.S.-supplied weapons in Iraq.
Russia recently renewed its military ties with Iran by supplying it with a state-of-the-art missile defense system. The sale came about after Iran and a U.S.-led group of five countries came to an agreement regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions. While sanctions have not been lifted yet, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the sale was a goodwill gesture for Iran’s cooperation.