The warlord, currently advancing against the UN-recognised government embarrassed his Russian hosts and undermined Russian diplomacy by leaving without signing an agreement.
Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar stormed out of the Russian Foreign Ministry snubbing his host Sergey Lavrov and in particular the Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Haftar has built a reputation for being mercurial and this time what seems to have tipped the Libyan warlord over the edge is the lack of red carpet treatment he received in Moscow.
Khalid al Mishri, Chairman of the High Council of State in Libya has said that the UAE embassy in Moscow played a crucial role in obstructing the ceasefire.
Speaking on television in Libya, al Mishri added that the "Gulf country was present in the cease-fire negotiations in Moscow and among Haftar's delegation was the charge d'affaires of the UAE embassy to Russia, which was one of the reasons why the ceasefire agreement was obstructed.”
Libyan expert Mary Fitzgerald believes that Haftar’s boldness in embarrassing his hosts has limits, and he is only “as stubborn as the support from his external backers allows him to be.”
Haftar receives backing from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, France, and, to a certain extent, Russia. The warlord has a self-declared army known as the Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF).
Another Libya expert speaking to Bloomberg said Haftar’s actions “won’t be forgotten by Putin” going on to say that it was a “blow to Russia’s reputation”.
Russia and Turkey had hoped to sign a ceasefire agreement between the Tripoli-based government and Haftar, making Libya another theatre where the two countries have cooperated in defending their interests, building on their cooperation in Syria.
The Tripoli-based government is led by Fayez al Sarraj and is the UN-recognised government representing Libya. It is also backed by Turkey and receives more limited support from Italy.
Emadeddin Badi, a policy leader fellow at the School of Transnational Governance, said: “It's high time for policymakers to question whether the inclusion of Haftar can be reconciled [with] any peaceful resolution of Libya's conflict.”
“The other question is whether his LAAF can retain some cohesion without a state of war or without him at its helm. Both are a no,” added Badi.
There were hints in the run-up to the Moscow meeting that Haftar’s militia had no intention of signing up to a ceasefire.
A source from the internationally-recognised government, speaking to Anadolu Agency, reported on Tuesday as preparations for talks in Moscow were underway that “Emirati armoured vehicles and cannons were spotted advancing to the town of Tarhunah, southeast of Tripoli."
Haftar believes that he has the full political-ideological support of the UAE, a country that has worked consistently to roll back any chance of the Arab Spring succeeding.
The Libyan warlord had demanded from Russia that Turkey should not be one of the international mediators to any ceasefire agreement, arguing that the country was not impartial.
Russia, however, has been far from an impartial actor in the Libyan conflict, allowing the private paramilitary Wagner Group, with close links to the Kremlin, to operate in the east of Libya helping Haftar.
What the recent talks between Haftar and the internationally-recognised government of Sarraj have ultimately exposed is that both sides are heavily dependent on external actors, without which they cannot reach a deal.
Background to the Libyan conflict
Earlier this year, Haftar, who is primarily based in Eastern Libya, launched an operation westwards to overthrow the Tripoli-based government.
The UN estimates that hundreds of people have been killed due to the fighting and many more injured. Haftar’s militia has also caused the displacement of 343,000 civilians, according to the UN.
Since the late leader Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in 2011, two seats of power have emerged. One in eastern Libya, which enjoys the support of mainly Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, while the other is in Tripoli and is recognised by the international community and the UN.