Friday, June 10, 2011

Russian Envoy Plans to Visit Libyan Capital in Another Peace Bid

Russian envoy plans Tripoli visit, eyes peace talks

Fri Jun 10, 2011 10:39am GMT
By Steve Gutterman

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's Africa envoy said on Friday that there was still a chance for talks between Libya's warring sides and announced plans to travel to Tripoli soon to meet members of Muammar Gaddafi's government.

Mikhail Margelov spoke after meeting Libyan rebel leaders in Benghazi and a cousin of Gaddafi in Cairo this week as part of a mediation effort by Russia, which has criticised Western air strikes and said they would not resolve the conflict.

The beleaguered rebels were boosted on Thursday by a more than $1.1 billion aid pledge from Western and Arab powers convened in Abu Dhabi to discuss possible alternatives to Gaddafi's decades-old rule.

"It is completely obvious to me that a window of opportunity for negotiations between the conflicting sides remains," Margelov, a top lawmaker who is also President Dmitry Medvedev's special representative for Africa, told reporters in Moscow.

Medvedev sent Margelov to Benghazi on Tuesday after offering Russia's services as a mediator during meetings with U.S. President Barack Obama and other Western leaders at a Group of Eight summit late last month.

He met rebel Transitional National Council leaders in Benghazi and a cousin of Gaddafi, Ahmed Gaddaf al-Dam, in Cairo.

Margelov said he would travel to Tripoli to meet Libya's prime minister, foreign minister and other government officials as soon as NATO, which is enforcing a no-fly zone, provides a transport corridor. "The plane is ready to go," he said.

Analysts say motives behind Russia's trouble-shooting efforts include the desire to gain global clout and preserve its influence in a country where it had billions of dollars in arms, energy and railway deals.

"Russia, as before, has a chance for certain mediation, at least to foster the beginning of a process of national rebirth and national reunification," Margelov said.

He said Medvedev had not instructed him to meet Gaddafi, who had "lost the moral right to play a role in Libya's political life in the future by bombing his people".

Veto-wielding permanent U.N. Security Council member Russia supported an initial council resolution imposing sanctions on Gaddafi, and Medvedev issued a decree barring him from Russia.

Russia then abstained in the March vote on a second resolution that authorised military intervention, and has accused the Western coalition conducting air strikes of going beyond its mandate to protect civilians.

At the G8 summit last month, Medvedev joined Western partners in urging Gaddafi to step down.

Margelov said Transitional National Council leaders had "declared that all previously concluded contracts in the economic sphere, including those with Russian companies, will be respected and adhered to."

No comments: