Russia recognises Libya's rebel government
Russia on Thursday recognised the rebels who ousted its old ally Moamer Kadhafi as the legitimate rulers of Libya, three months after some Western states and on the same day as a major global forum.
"The Russian Federation recognises Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) as the ruling authority and notes its reform programme that includes the development of a new constitution, holding general elections and forming the government," the foreign ministry said.
"Our country has established and continued diplomatic relations with Libya since September 4, 1955 without a break, no matter what government holds power in Tripoli," it said.
Russia's recognition of the interim NTC comes well after similar moves by the United States and a dozen other countries. It also comes on the same day as France hosts a "friends of Libya" conference in Paris to help Libya rebuild.
Last week as Libya's rebels gained control of Tripoli, President Dmitry Medvedev said Russia would recognise their authority "if they unite the country", adding that the regime of Moamer Kadhafi still had influence.
The foreign ministry said it expected the NTC not to renege on contracts agreed with the old regime, which included major deals in railways, energy and defence.
"We act on the premise that the agreements and other mutual obligations formerly reached between Russia and Libya remain in effect in the relationship between the two countries and will be honoured," it said.
"Common sense prevailed," said the editor of the Russia in Global Affairs journal Fyodor Lukyanov. "Perhaps this announcement was made today to show that Russia is in the group of countries meeting in Paris today."
Taking so long to recognise the rebels was not a mistake "since the source of this government's legitimacy is still not clear," Lukyanov said.
Moscow had abstained from the UN resolution on a no fly zone in Libya at the outset of the conflict, effectively allowing the Western military action against Kadhafi to go ahead.
But it then appeared increasingly disgruntled with the magnitude of the campaign and repeatedly angrily accused the West of siding with the rebels in a civil war.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov repeated on Thursday Russia's concerns over NATO's campaign, calling it a "rude disregard of the rule-of-law" which ignored UN and African Union initiatives and "increased civilian deaths".
As a result of its lack of involvement in the campaign, Russia's economic role in the new Libya is likely to be limited by Western countries who consider the new Libya "their legitimate spoils", said Lukyanov.
The ministry's last-minute announcement of plans the day earlier to attend the Paris meeting came after denials last week of having received any invitation.
Medvedev's envoy for Africa, Mikhail Margelov, who is attending the Paris conference, expressed hope ahead of the meeting that the new government will honour all contracts signed by Kadhafi.
"I don't think that the new Libyan government will start by evaluating contracts with Russia using political, rather than technical-economic criteria," he told the Interfax news agency.
Analysts have warned Russian companies now risk losing billions of dollars in arms and energy contracts in the new Libya after the rebels said they would favour those states who offered them full support in the conflict.
Russian generals have estimated $4 billion in lost arms contracts from the rebels' rise to power and their expected decision to rely on NATO equipment and support.
Railway monopoly Russian Railways also stands to lose if the new government decides not to build a $3.1 billion Tripoli-Benghazi link.
© 2011 AFP