Russia Urges Strict Controls Over Exemptions to Libya Arms Ban

  • Foreign military role in Libya needs UN approval, Russia says
  • Deputy foreign minister urges respect for Syria’s sovereignty

Russia demanded strict controls before weapons are allowed to pass through an arms embargo on Libya and said the United Nations must approve any foreign military intervention to combat Islamic State in the North African state.

“We are wary of reports from various sources about plans to carry out military operations on Libyan territory with the participation of foreign contingents,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov said in response to written questions from Bloomberg News. “Any actions of force in this country require the agreement of the legitimate Libyan leadership and UN approval.”

The Russian official said his country would need “absolute guarantees” that weapons won’t end up in the wrong hands before it supports arms supplies to Libya. An international meeting last month in Vienna agreed that Libya’s UN-backed unity government can apply for exemptions to the arms embargo to procure military equipment to fight UN-designated terrorist groups.

The U.S., Russia, and European powers, as well as Libya’s neighbors, are attempting to build the first stable government in the country since NATO states intervened in 2011 to oust former leader Moammar Qaddafi. Russia argues that the UN-sanctioned bombing of Libya by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was abused to bring about regime change. It has vowed to prevent a similar overthrow of the government in Syria, where a Russian bombing campaign has bolstered the position of its ally President Bashar al-Assad.

‘Foreign Forces’

Asked about an offensive led by Syrian Kurds with U.S. support that is closing in on the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa, Syromolotov said that any military operations in Syria should be coordinated with the government in Damascus. Assad forces backed by Russia are approaching the city from a different direction.

“As far as the role of foreign forces is concerned, they should help without violating the sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic,” he said.

Russia, which has urged the U.S. to coordinate military operations with it against Islamic State and other terror groups, is continuing to press for the formation of a wide anti-terrorist front in Syria, Syromolotov said.

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