Saif al-Islam, the son of slain Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi, should have a chance to run for the country’s top office, a senior Russian diplomat said. Earlier Bloomberg reported he had asked Russia to support his candidacy.
The report on Saif al-Islam’s contacts with the Kremlin is part of a larger story about Russia’s role in the war-torn country, which was disintegrated after the NATO-backed uprising toppled Gaddafi in 2011. The long-time leader was summarily executed while his son Saif al-Islam spent years as a prisoner of militias in the western Libyan city of Zintan. The younger Gaddafi has long declared his intention to run for Libyan presidency.
“Our position is that no one should be isolated and excluded from a constructive political role,” Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told RIA Novosti on Monday, in response to the report. “Saif al-Islam has the backing of specific tribes in Libya and all this should be part of the overall political process.”
According to Bloomberg, Russian diplomats spoke to Saif al-Islam via a video link shortly after his release by the militias in 2017. His representative also spoke to Bogdanov in early December, explaining Gaddafi’s vision for the future of Libya and asking for support, the agency added. Russian officials would not comment on the claims.
Bogdanov said that Moscow keeps contact with various groups in the country as part of the peace settlement process.
Libya remains in turmoil almost a decade after the Western intervention . Its UN-recognized government in Tripoli controls only a small portion of the country and has to keep local militias satisfied to keep them on their side. Another center of power in the east is in control of Libyan oil fields, but has to negotiate terms of crude exports with the government to conduct the business legally. There are also numerous tribal factions deeper in the south, arms smugglers, human traffickers, jihadist fighters and other forces.
The plan to hold a presidential election this year was postponed due to continued struggling between Libya’s two rival governments and is now scheduled for next year.
In November the head of the Russian contact group on intra-Libyan settlement, Lev Dengov, said that Saif al-Islam is part of the political process in the country as there are people who support everything that is related to Gaddafi as their lives were better then.