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.
The Russian Foreign Ministry noted that Lavrov is meeting 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 meeting is part of our plan to assist efforts being made by the African Union and the UN to politically settle the situation in Libya as soon as possible,” another source told Interfax.
On Tuesday, 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.
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.
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.