Russia on Wednesday hosted Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi's foreign minister for talks in Moscow as it pressed ahead with mediation efforts to end the conflict between his regime and rebel forces.
Foreign Minister Abdelati al-Obeidi, the highest-ranking Kadhafi official to visit Moscow since the conflict with the rebels erupted, entered the foreign ministry in the afternoon for talks with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
He made no comment to the media as he entered, an AFP correspondent said.
|A photo taken shows a leaflet air dropped by NATO forces over the Libyan capital Tripoli, on July 19, 2011.|
In a sign of the low-key nature of the talks, the foreign ministry has not invited reporters, as is usually customary in diplomatic visits, to attend the opening protocol exchanges and an ensuing news conference.
Officials also denied that the visit is aimed at thrashing out a plan to allow Kadhafi to quit the country, saying it is part of ongoing efforts to find a peaceful solution to the situation.
Russia backed the UN resolution that opened the way for Western military air strikes against Kadhafi targets but has since expressed fury with the duration of the campaign and accused the West of taking sides in a civil war.
It is also refusing to follow Western states in recognising the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) as the legitimate government in Libya, saying it only sees the opposition as a negotiating partner.
But along with the African Union, Moscow has positioned itself as a potential mediator in the crisis and President Dmitry Medvedev's envoy has held talks in both Tripoli and the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.
"We will continue to search for a compromise," Medvedev said on Tuesday while on a visit to Germany. "In my opinion it is reachable."
"I think that we must search for a peaceful solution to this situation using any mediators and any possibilities, as there will be no military solution to the Libyan problem," he said alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Medvedev has strongly backed Western calls for Kadhafi to quit but Russia has also denied speculation it could be ready to offer the Libyan leader sanctuary.
Meanwhile, the pro-Kadhafi Libyan ambassador to Moscow rejected the idea that Wednesday's meetings could be aimed at finding a formula for Kadhafi to quit power.
"The political future of our country is an internal matter of Libya," Amir al-Garib told the Moskovskie Novosti newspaper in an interview. "Not one foreign state has the right to interfere in our affairs."
"I assure you that the leader of the Libyan revolution Moamer Kadhafi has no intention of leaving the state and will not discuss any proposals about this."
He said the main aim of al-Obeidi's visit was "finding peace" and said the trip had been arranged at the last minute, only being finalised on Tuesday.
A Russian diplomat, who was not named, also told the paper that Kadhafi's departure from Libya would not be an issue at the talks but said that the Libyan leadership had an interest in negotiating.