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Cablegate: Putin Visit to Libya Expected by End of April Tripoli 00000297 001.2 of 002

VZCZCXRO6358
OO RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHFL RUEHKUK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV
DE RUEHTRO #0297/01 0991357
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 081357Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3326
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 3824

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 TRIPOLI 000297

SIPDIS NOFORN SIPDIS

DEPT FOR NEA/MAG AND EUR/RUS E.O. 12958: DECL: 4/8/2018

TAGS: PGOV PREL KNNP ETTC ENRG PINR ELTN RS LY

SUBJECT: PUTIN VISIT TO LIBYA EXPECTED BY END OF APRIL TRIPOLI 00000297 001.2 OF 002

CLASSIFIED BY: Chris Stevens, CDA, Embassy Tripoli, Dept of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)

1. (C) Summary. Although the Russian Embassy has received "nothing official" from Moscow, it expects Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit Libya by the end of April. Putin's projected travel to Libya is the "primary issue" in Libyan-Russian relations; in a recent meeting with Emboffs, the Russian DCM stressed that Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi has repeatedly made it clear he expects the visit to happen. During the visit, according to the Russian Embassy, Russia hopes to sign a general framework agreement on civilian nuclear cooperation, and military equipment sales will likely feature prominently in discussions. The Russian DCM also briefed Emboffs on a joint Russian-Libyan military cooperation council and ongoing Russian commercial ventures in the oil/gas and construction sectors. End summary.

PUTIN VISIT EXPECTED IN APRIL

2. (C) While the Russian Embassy in Tripoli has not received official notification from Moscow that outgoing President Vladimir Putin will travel to Libya, Russian DCM Anatoly Martinov and Poloff Evgeny Kozlov told P/E Chief and Poloff on April 3 that the Embassy expects a visit sometime in April, i.e., before Putin leaves office in May. Though a possible summit between Putin and Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi has been the "primary issue" in Libyan-Russian relations since 2003, Martinov said preparations have intensified since November 2007. Qadhafi and Putin have spoken by phone three times in the past few weeks. He characterized the two leaders as enjoying "relatively good" personal relations, and said Qadhafi made it clear to FM Lavrov during the latter's December 2007 visit to Tripoli that he expects a visit from "friend Putin" before his term of office expires. Separately, former Congressman Curt Weldon told P/E Chief on March 31 that Putin was expected to visit Libya circa mid-April. He cited as the source of his information a senior Rosoboroneksport official who said he would be part of the Russian presidential delegation.

A "GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY" FOR A NUCLEAR COOPERATION AGREEMENT

3. (C) According to Martinov, Russia intends to capitalize on a "golden opportunity" to sign a general framework agreement on civilian nuclear cooperation during Putin's April visit. Cooperation on atomic energy has to date been limited to sales of equipment for Libya's experimental reactor facility at Tajoura, including water management and fire suppression technology. Stressing that Russia "had no particular (civilian nuclear) projects in mind", Martinov said Russia is ready to sign a nuclear framework agreement that could facilitate future cooperation on power generation and desalinization projects. We've heard from other diplomatic contacts that the Russians hope to expoit the fact that French-Libyan civilian nuclear cooperation has not progressed to the GOL's satisfaction since a parallel agreement was signed during President Sarkozy's visit to Libya last summer (ref A).

QADHAFI'S SONS PARTICIPATED IN MILITARY EDUCATIONAL EXCHANGE

4. (S/NF) In the late 1990s, Libya and Russia established a joint military cooperation council to manage training and equipment sales. Russia's senior representative on the council, noted Russian nuclear physicist and author Evgeny Abramyan, has visited Libya on half a dozen occasions during the past 10 years to discuss ongoing military cooperation. Top Libyan military officials, including two of Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi's sons - Muatassim and Khamis - have studied in Moscow on GOR-financed MOD educational exchanges. (DAO comment: Khamis al-Qadhafi spent 14 months in a combined Russian staff college course especially designed for him and obtained a PhD in military sciences in 2007. DAO's contacts have told us that the Russian DAO's office expects Putin's visit soon, and that the Russians have threatened to cut off military spare parts sales to Libya if a major new contract is not signed during Putin's visit. End comment.) Stressing that defense cooperation occurs largely outside the purview of Russia's Embassy in Tripoli, Martinov characterized Libya-Russia defense cooperation as good and said the Libyans appeared "well pleased" with Russian military equipment. Former Congressman Weldon's Rosoboroneksport contact said that in addition to an expected civilian nuclear deal, conventional arms sales would be a prominent issue for discussions between Putin and Qadhafi. Possible sales of tactical and strategic airlift aircraft and armor, and overhaul of Libyan naval vessels were specifically mentioned.

RUSSIAN COMPANIES ACTIVE IN OIL/GAS AND CONSTRUCTION

5. (SBU) Turning to commercial interests, Martinov noted that TRIPOLI 00000297 002.2 OF 002 oil/gas exploration company Tatneft was moving ahead with seismic exploration of blocks in the Ghadames and Sirte basins that it secured in the December 2006 round of the National Oil Corporation's Exploration and Production Sharing Agreement (EPSA) bid process. (Note: Tatneft won rights to blocks in area 82 and 98 in the Ghadames Basin, and area 69 in the Sirte Basin. As reported ref B, Gazprom won exploration and production rights in the December 2007 EPSA round for three blocks of area 64 in the Ghadames Basin. End note.) A private Russian company has been awarded a contract to renovate and provide new radar equipment to the Tobruk airport. A Russian company is also close to signing a contract to construct approximately 300km of a projected 2,000km coastal rail line that would span Libya from the Libyan-Tunisian border to the Libyan-Egyptian border.

KEY RUSSIAN POSITIONS VACANT DUE TO VISA PROBLEMS

6. (SBU) Kozlov noted that a number of key positions in the Russian Embassy in Tripoli have remained vacant due to difficulties in obtaining Libyan visas for PCS staff. The Political Counselor slot has been vacant since August 2007; the incoming PolCouns has been unable to obtain a visa. Kozlov characterized lengthy waits for Libyan visas as "routine" for Russian diplomatic staff.
STEVENS

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