The Russian Foreign Ministry denied on Thursday that it has received an invitation from France to take part in an international conference of “friends of Libya,” which will take place in Paris on September 1.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy was quoted in Western media reports on Wednesday as saying that he had invited countries who see themselves as “friends of Libya” to the high-level talks on the future of the country without Muammar Gaddafi.
Sarkozy said member countries of the Contact Group on Libya, involving participants in the NATO-led military operation in Libya and representatives of the United Nations, the Arab League and the African Union, were invited to the talks, along with China, Russia, India and Brazil, countries that have expressed concerns over the operation.
“We have not seen such an invitation,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told journalists when asked about Russia’s reaction to the proposal.
The French Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Thursday that Arab countries, both those involved in the contact group and others, who are willing to take part in the restoration of Libya, have been invited to the talks.
Lukashevich stressed that the post-conflict settlement in Libya should take place under the guise of the UN Security Council, which Russia is a permanent member of, “not quasi-structures like a contact group or other structures.”
The Contact Group on Libya was created in March, soon after the start of the military operation designed to protect civilians in Libya from attacks by forces loyal to Gaddafi.
During a meeting in Istanbul in mid-July, the group declared the regime of embattled Libyan leader Gaddafi illegitimate and recognized the opposition National Transitional Council as “the legitimate governing authority in Libya” until the establishment of an interim authority.
Ahead of the Paris meeting, France has proposed renaming the Contact Group into a Group of Friends of Libya.
So far, some 45 countries have recognized the NTC as Libya’s legitimate authority.
The talks in Paris will take place amid dramatic developments in Libya, where rebels have established control over most of the capital, Tripoli, over the past few days. Gaddafi himself has fled his compound in Tripoli and his whereabouts remain unknown.
Lukashevich warned on Thursday that it was “early to speak about the end of a military confrontation” in Libya because reports about the situation in the country have been “very controversial.”
“We will be ready to substantially discuss the recommendations and ideas put forward by the UN Secretary General [Ban Ki-moon] only when we are sure that the situation within the country does not pose a direct threat to the lives of UN representatives,” the spokesman said.