Russia calls for "immediate end" to Libyan conflict

Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov is holding talks with his Libyan counterpart Abdul al-Obeidi in Moscow on Wednesday in an effort to find a political solution to the ongoing war in Libya.

Abdul al-Obeidi’s visit to Moscow is taking place just days after a U.S. delegation met with representatives of Col. Muammar Gaddafi in Tunisia on Saturday.

The U.S. Department of State reported that those talks had not produced any agreement regarding a possible peace agreement in Libya, nor word on whether Gaddafi would be willing to voluntarily step down.

The Russian Foreign Ministry noted that Lavrov met with al-Obeidi at Tripoli's request.

"Lavrov's meeting with the Secretary of the General People's Committee will be held at the request of the Libyan side," an official at the Russian Foreign Ministry told Itar-Tass. "The meeting will be held with a… view to putting an end to the bloodshed in Libya and to reaching a political settlement (of the situation) there."

The Russian foreign minister called on the belligerents in the Libyan conflict to bring the hostilities to an immediate end, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"Lavrov stressed that a top priority at the current stage is to intensify efforts with the aim of stopping the bloodshed immediately, launching a political process to settle the confrontation in Libya, as well as starting talks about the country's democratic future as soon as possible," the ministry said.

Tripoli must also strictly obey the conditions set down by UN Security Council's Resolutions 1970 and 1973, it said.

The ministry went on to note that the UN and the African Union had responsibility for finding a solution to the crisis.

"The minister focused on the fact that a key role in the search for a solution to the crisis in Libya belongs to the UN and the African Union, which have been working on options and terms for the start of a representative inter-Libyan dialogue," the Russian ministry said.

According to Mikhail Margelov, Russian President's Special Envoy for Cooperation with African Countries, the situation in Libya cannot be resolved peacefully without the involvement of the United Nations and the African Union.

"Obviously, the Libya situation can only be resolved peacefully under the umbrella of the UN and the continent's regional organization.

The isolation of the African Union, which happened at the very start of the events, was a gross mistake," Margelov said.

On Tuesday, Addis Ababa hosted consultations over the Libyan situation, which involved the parties to the conflict, the UN and the African Union, who called for a new stage in the settlement of the Libya crisis, he told Interfax on Wednesday.

The Addis Ababa meeting was the result of months-long mediation by Russia and senior African Union officials to bring the conflict to an end. But according to Margelov, the process will not be an easy one.

"It is clear that one should not expect any breakthrough results at the start of this new stage, and the main thing now is to work out the order and sequence of actions. And the fact that the conflicting Libyan parties agreed to sit down at the negotiating table without preconditions is no doubt a success," Margelov said.

Despite the many challenges, Russia said it will continue to assist in whatever way it can in finding a solution to the Libyan crisis.

"Lavrov reaffirmed Russia's intention to continue working in every possible way to assist international efforts aimed at settling the conflict in strict compliance with appropriate international decisions, guaranteeing that Libya will remain an independent and sovereign state where the interests of all of its citizens will be secured, and the territorial integrity of which will be maintained," it said.

The Russian minister also held a telephone conversation with the UN secretary general's Libya envoy Abdul al-Khatib on Wednesday.

"Lavrov highlighted the need to urgently launch a political-diplomatic process and supported the efforts being made by the special envoy. The minister advised al-Khatib to coordinate his measures with other envoys," the ministry said.

Earlier in the week, Lavrov reaffirmed that Russia supports a diversity of political views and political parties as opposed to limiting the democratic field to just the Transitional National Council, the oppositional group that is now engaged in a bloody campaign to oust Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Moscow emphasized that it would recognize the Transitional National Council as a legitimate party to any future peace talks.

Lavorv also stressed that "Russia maintains contacts with Tripoli and Benghazi", while encouraging them to "take a constructive position, (assume) responsibility, and sit down at the negotiating table on the basis of mediatory proposals put forward by the African Union and the UN".

During his trip to the U.S. last week, Russia's foreign minister said there was no place for Muammar Gaddafi in the new Libya, while at the same time stressing that any political settlement be subject to negotiations.

"Moscow agrees that Gaddafi must go, there is no place for him in the future Libya,” Lavrov said. “However, the rest is a subject of negotiations between the current authorities in Tripoli and the opposition National Transitional Council in Benghazi.”

What has come to be known as the Libyan Civil War began on February 15 as a series of peaceful protests that eventually snowballed into a full-blown uprising. Rebel forces opposing Gaddafi declared a government headquartered in the northeastern port city of Benghazi, calling themselves the National Transitional Council.

On March 17, The UN Security Council voted to support a no-fly zone over Libya and "all necessary measures" to protect civilians. Russia, together with four other Council members, including China, abstained from the vote.

Since passage of the UN resolution, NATO forces have been conducting an ongoing aerial campaign, which has led observers, including many in Moscow, to conclude that the Coalition is “overstepping its UN mandate” and siding with the rebel forces.

In June, NATO accepted blame for an errant airstrike that resulted in civilian casualties. The “glitch” happened in the east of the capital, Tripoli, and was due to a "weapons system failure," a NATO official said.

Libyan officials said nine civilians were killed, including two children. 

Lavrov’s meeting with al-Obeidi will not be Russia's first meeting with representatives from the Libyan conflict.

Tripoli's Muhammad ash Sherif and Benghazi's envoy Abdel Rahman Shalgham, a former foreign minister and Libya's UN ambassador respectively, paid an official visit to Russia in May.

During the G8 Summit in Deauville, France, in which Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was in attendance, an offer was extended to Russia to help mediate the crisis in Libya.

Moscow declined the invitation, however, saying it does not want to play the role of mediator in the protracted conflict.

Robert Bridge, RT