Russian, Libyan navies resume contacts

By RIA Novosti

Moscow : The Russian and Libyan navies have resumed contacts after a long hiatus when a Russian Navy vessel made a port call at Tripoli, an aide to the Russian Navy commander said on Saturday.

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The Ivan Bubnov tanker will stay at the Libyan capital until January 7. It is participating in a two-month patrol mission in the northeast Atlantic and the Mediterranean, Russia’s first in the past three years, which began on December 5.

“The visit by the Russian vessel to Libya could be seen as a revival of contacts with the country’s navy in the interest of strengthening mutual understanding and building trust in the Mediterranean region,” Capt. 1st Rank Igor Dygalo said.

Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said previously that a total of four warships and seven other vessels of Russia’s Northern, Black Sea and Baltic Fleets, as well as 47 airplanes and 10 helicopters, would take part in the 12,000-mile cruise.

“The mission is aimed at ensuring a naval presence and establishing conditions for secure Russian navigation,” Serdyukov told the Russian President Vladimir Putin at a meeting in the Kremlin.

Libya’s leader Colonel Muammar Qaddafi met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on December 24 in Tripoli to discuss bilateral relations and international issues.

After the meeting the foreign minister said that the two countries are preparing Putin’s visit to Libya.

Lavrov also said Libya’s Soviet-era debt to Russia, which stands at around $3.5 billion, including interest, would be a key issue on the visit’s agenda.

In mid-August, Putin announced the resumption of strategic patrol flights, saying that although the country halted long-distance strategic flights to remote regions in 1992 with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the ensuing economic and political chaos, other nations had continued the practice, compromising Russian national security.