Without assuming role of mediator, Moscow talks with conflicting sides in Libya

Sergey Lavrov (AFP Photo / Natalia Kolesnikova)
The Russian foreign minister says it is time to negotiate a truce in Libya and to stop NATO air strikes.

“The most important thing now is to negotiate the timeline and conditions for a truce,” Sergey Lavrov said at a press conference in Moscow on Tuesday. This could lay the foundation for a national dialogue on the county’s future.

If the terms for the peaceful settlement are determined, there will be no reason for NATO air strikes. Lavrov noted that the bombings “go far beyond the mandate given by the UN Security Council resolutions.”

But Moscow is not assuming the role of a mediator between the government and opposition in Libya. It supports UN mediation and the African Union’s brokering efforts, the minister stressed.

He discussed on Monday the situation with the UN special envoy for Libya Abdullah al-Khatib. Russia is supporting the envoy’s line to persuade all the sides involved in the conflict that there is no military solution, Lavrov said.

Although the Russian leadership has not assumed the role of mediator, it is clearly trying to persuade the two sides to start a dialogue. Representatives of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime visited Moscow on Tuesday, and the opposition envoys will come to the Russian capital later.

The authorities in Tripoli are ready to consider the road map approaches proposed by the African Union and to observe the UN Security Council’s resolutions 1970 and 1973, Lavrov said after the meeting with Gaddafi’s envoys. But the condition for this move is reciprocal steps from the opposition and the end for the air strikes.

The meeting with envoys of the opposition forces based in Benghazi was postponed “for technical reasons.” It will be held as soon as the Libyan representatives are ready. Meanwhile, Moscow will continue “to send the necessary signals” through other channels.

Russia had earlier voiced concern over civilian casualties as result of NATO air strikes. Moscow wants the Libyan government to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid to the country.

Lavrov’s meeting with representatives of the Libyan regime does not violate any UN resolutions, first deputy chairman of the State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Leonid Slutsky believes. The UN Security Council does not “take Libyans as some outcasts whom one should not meet,” he told RIA Novosti. Talks with representatives of Tripoli “have not been placed under taboo,” the deputy noted.