Russia hosting GNA PM Sarraj at Africa-Russia Summit highlights dual approach policy
On 23-24 October, the Russian government hosted the first Africa-Russia Summit and Economic Forum in Sochi, which was attended by Government of National Accord (GNA) Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj. The meeting reportedly culminated in a one-year agreement on a contract to ship 1 million tons of Russian wheat to Libya, planned to be signed within a month and implemented by the end of the year.
A delegation from eastern Libya, led by the parallel government’s Foreign Minister Abdul Hadi Hwej, also attended the Sochi summit and held several meetings on the side-line of the summit, including with Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister and Special Presidential Representative on the Middle East, Mikhail Bogdanov. It has been reported that some Russian officials had objected to the attendance of non-GNA leaders at the summit.
The Sochi event served as an opportunity for Russia to expand its influence in the African continent. Rather than signalling a split in Moscow on its policy on Libya, the presence of both the GNA and the eastern delegation at the Sochi summit highlights Russia is continuing its policy of hedging between the two competing factions and maintaining relations with both. Russia’s approach will likely ensure it has foothold, both economically and militarily, in Libya’s post-conflict landscape. A side effect of Russia’s increasingly overt engagement in Libya could be an uptick in US engagement in support of a political solution and economic reform in the country, as a counter balance to expanding Russian influence.