NATO to provide safe corridor to Russia’s envoy to Libya

A Libyan boy holds a former Libyan flag as he plays along the sea promenade on June 2, 2011 in the eastern rebel held city of Benghazi (AFP Photo / Gianluigi Guercia)
Moscow is working to ensure a “corridor” for the Russian president’s special representative for Africa, Mikhail Margelov, during his trip to Libya.

­President Dmitry Medvedev appointed Margelov his envoy to Libya a week ago. The main goal of his mission is to persuade Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to step down. Margelov is going to meet opposition leaders and representatives of the ruling regime in Libya.

Political dialogue remains the only possible solution to the Libyan conflict, Rogozin told Russia 24 TV channel. “Our position is very simple: it is necessary to assist political dialogue,” he stressed, adding that Margelov will talk with both parties.

Margelov, the special envoy to the Middle East and Africa, is expected to head to Benghazi, the stronghold of the Libyan opposition forces. However, Russia has preserved its embassy in Tripoli and maintains contacts with the ruling regime. During the recent G8 summit in France world leaders asked the Russian president to assist in the mediating efforts to settle the conflict in the North African country. Moscow has a chance to establish a dialogue between both parties, because it has never used military force in the region.

Rogozin said NATO was “very reluctant to be drawn into the war” in Libya and now “acts as a brake on the hotheads.” European countries, mostly the France-UK tandem started a military operation, the envoy said. Some countries of the Western coalition clearly supported one side in the civil conflict, he noted. Their actions “have long gone beyond” Security Council resolution 1973.

However, NATO is sending its advisers to Libya, and there is suspicion that the ground operation may become a reality, the envoy warned. Moscow believes the political dialogue is needed for minimizing civilian casualties.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Thursday the situation in Libya must be turned on to a “political track” as soon as possible to develop principles for building a new Libya. “We cannot do anything by force,” he said.