MOSCOW (AFP) – Libya is seeking to buy more than two billion dollars worth of Russian arms including 20 fighter planes, the Interfax news agency reported on Tuesday, citing a military-diplomatic source.
The report came as Libya’s defence minister was due to visit Russia in the latest sign of renewed cooperation between Moscow and the North African state, which enjoyed close ties during the Cold War.
“Libya is ready to buy around 20 fighter planes, at least two divisions of S-300PMU2 air defence systems and several dozen T-90S tanks from Russia, and also to modernise more than 140 T-70 tanks and other weapons,” the source said.
The source told Interfax that more than one billion dollars of the deal was for combat aircraft such as SU-35s, SU-30s and Yak-130s. The news agency put the total size of the deal at two billion dollars (1.4 billion euros).
Earlier a senior Russian official had confirmed that Moscow was counting on signing arms deals with Libya during Tuesday’s visit by the country’s defence minister, General Abu-Bakr Yunis Jaber.
“We expect his visit will not just be of a political nature, but will also allow the signing of contracts on the delivery of arms and military hardware,” Vyacheslav Dzirkaln, deputy head of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, told the RIA-Novosti state news agency last week.
Dzirkaln, whose service oversees arms exports, said Libya was interested in Russian fighter jets and air defence systems but did not elaborate.
Neither the service nor Russia’s state-run arms exporter Rosoboronexport could be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Libya, a longtime pariah state that has moved to rejoin the international community in recent years, has reportedly been in talks with Moscow about revamping its military.
Much of the North African state’s arsenal was purchased from the Soviet Union in the last years of the Cold War.
Moscow and Tripoli have stepped up their contacts in recent years. In 2008 Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi visited the Russian capital in his first visit to Moscow since the 1980s.