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01:30, 27 June 2017 Tuesday
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Moscow eyes Libya as elite forces land in western Egypt
Moscow eyes Libya as elite forces land in western Egypt

A Western diplomat, who also requested anonymity, confirmed reports that Russian forces are now at a western Egypt army "facility." 

World Bulletin / News Desk

Moscow has apparently deployed military forces to a base in western Egypt, a US official said Tuesday, a sign Russia could be increasing its involvement in nearby Libya.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that Russia appears to have deployed special operations forces to an air base at Sid Barrani, which is located about 100 kilometers (60 miles) east of the Libyan border. 

The official said the American military is monitoring the situation closely.

The move comes after forces of eastern Libya's military strongman Khalifa Haftar this month conceded the loss of a key oil export terminal they seized last year in ongoing fighting for the country's resource wealth.

The capture of Ras Lanuf and the other three eastern oil ports in September enabled Haftar to keep up his challenge to the authority of the UN-backed government in Tripoli and demand a major role in a replacement administration.

The Russian Defense Ministry denied special forces were in Sidi Barrani.

"There are no Russian special forces units in Sidi Barrani in Egypt," the ministry said in a statement.

"This is not the first time such leaks from anonymous sources in the Western media have excited the public."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he had "no information" on any Russian troops being sent to Egypt, and he also denied Moscow had interest in deepening its activity in Libya.

Still, he added that Russia is interested in Libya's stabilization so the country "does not become a breeding ground for terrorist recruits."

Following the ouster and killing of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011, an array of rivals has been vying for control of Libya.

 



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Cyprus president seeks peace deal in Switzerland
Cyprus president seeks peace deal in Switzerland

Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades said Monday he hopes to clinch a reunification deal laying out a new security blueprint for the divided island during a crunch summit in Switzerland this week. Anastasiades will attend United Nations-backed talks at the Alpine Crans-Montana ski resort Wednesday with "complete determination and goodwill... to achieve a desired solution", he said in a statement. He said he hopes to "abolish the anachronistic system of guarantees and intervention rights", with a deal providing for the withdrawal of the Turkish army. The eastern Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded its northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece. Turkey maintains around 35,000 troops in northern Cyprus. The so-called guarantor powers of Turkey, Britain and Greece retain the right to intervene militarily on the island. Greek and Turkish Cypriots are at odds over a new security blueprint, but their leaders are under pressure to reach an elusive peace deal. "I am going to Switzerland to participate in the Cyprus conference, with the sole aim and intent of solving the Cyprus problem," Anastasiades said. Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci is also set to attend the summit, which is expected to last at least 10 days. Greece, Turkey and Britain will send envoys along with an observer from the European Union. UN-led talks on the island hit a wall in late May after the sides failed to agree terms to advance toward a final summit. Unlocking the security question would allow Anastasiades and Akinci to make unprecedented concessions on core issues. But they have major differences on what a new security blueprint should look like. Anastasiades's internationally recognised government, backed by Athens, seeks an agreement to abolish intervention rights, with Turkish troops withdrawing from the island on a specific timeline. Turkish Cypriots and Ankara argue for some form of intervention rights and a reduced number of troops remaining in the north. Turkish Cypriots want the conference to focus on broader issues of power-sharing, property rights and territory for the creation of a new federation. Much of the progress to date has been based on strong personal rapport between Anastasiades and Akinci, leader of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. But that goodwill has appeared frayed in the build-up to their meeting in Switzerland. The Greek Cypriot presidential election next February has also complicated the landscape, as has the government's search for offshore oil and gas, which Ankara argues should be suspended until the negotiations have reached an outcome.