Moscow stands firm over the crisis in Libya

Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev has again set out Russia’s position over the situation in Libya during his meeting with US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates at his Gorky residence on Tuesday.

Medvedev expressed deep concern about the form of implementing the UN Security Council resolution on Libya, which was passed on March 17. 

"The president once again voiced his opinions  about the  current situation in Libya. Medvedev expressed his concerns about the way the UN Security  Council  resolution  on  imposing  a  no-fly  zone  is   being implemented  and   about  possible   civilian  casualties   because   of the indiscriminate deployment of air forces," the President’s press service said.

Russia abstained from the UN’s decision to take military action in the region, electiing not to use its right of veto. If Russia had vetoed the resolution, it could not have been passed.

Russia’s Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, Presidential Aide Sergey Prikhodko and Assistant Secretary of Defense Alexander Vershbow all took part in the meeting.

Serdyukov and Gates met in Moscow earlier the same day to discuss Libya, Afghanistan and missile defense in Europe.

Speaking about coalition forces’ attacks in Libya, Anatoly Serdyukov said that the current clashes weree unacceptable and called for an end to the violence which has claimed the lives of civilians.

"Regrettably, the latest events have shown that actual hostilities have been launched in this country, as a result of which civilian facilities have been damaged and civilians have been killed. This is unacceptable," Serdyukov said after a meeting with Robert Gates.

"Everything should be done to stop the violence,”  he added.

“We are convinced that an immediate ceasefire and the start of dialogue is the shortest way to reliably ensure the security of civilians,”  Serdyukov said.

Roberts Gates expressed the point of view that only Libyans have the power and the right to decide the fate of their own country, but that the coalition’s presence in Libya is necessary in the context of  UN resolution 1973 in order to guarantee civilians’ security.

"I also told him that I thought the significant military fighting that has been going on should recede in the next few days," Gates said at a joint briefing.

Previously on Monday, Russia’s president  called for an end to the conflict in Libya. He insisted that the problem should be solved through negotiations.  He confirmed that Russia would not take part in any military action or send its troops  into Libya.

“The Russian Federation, from the very beginning, has wanted the resolution of this problem to take place thorough peaceful means. At the same time, we were very thorough in monitoring the situation and we definitely condemned the actions of the Libyan government with respect to its own people,” Medvedev said.

Medvedev reaffirmed Russia's willingness to act as a mediator in any negotiations toward  a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Libya.

The situation in Libya has also been the focus of a meeting between the Prime Ministers of Russia and Slovenia.

Journalists asked Vladimir Putin to comment on his recent harsh comparison of the Libyan campaign to a crusade.

The premier's reply countered media speculation about differences within the Russian leadership over the issue.

"On the unity or difference of views on events in Libya within the Russian leadership, the President of the Russian Federation is the only one who defines foreign policy, and there can be no divergence here. As for the crux of the matter, we should be thinking about the victims, the number of whom is growing as a result of the civil war and the bombing of Libyan territory. Those who are behind this tragedy should think about this, and pray that their souls will be pardoned."