Kremlin envoy's Libya visit discussed in Rome
The Kremlin will send an envoy to Benghazi and Tripoli soon to try and mediate in the conflict in Libya, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was reported as saying on Thursday during a visit to Rome.
Medvedev said the envoy would seek to implement the conclusions of last week's G8 meeting in France in which global powers called on Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi to step down, Italian media reported, citing diplomatic sources.
The Kremlin chief was speaking at a meeting with US Vice President Joseph Biden and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Rome, where dignitaries from more than 80 countries gathered to mark Italy's Republic Day celebrations.
"We would like as much as possible for the problem to be resolved through negotiations and not by military means," Medvedev told reporters before the talks, acknowledging that negotiations would be "a very difficult road."
Russia has enjoyed close ties with Kadhafi's regime -- notably through large-scale arms contracts -- and abstained from a UN Security Council vote in March that gave the go-ahead for international military action against Libya.
But the Kremlin has increasingly distanced itself from the regime in recent weeks and at the G8 (Group of Eight) summit last week Russia said Kadhafi "needs to go" and pledged to ramp up diplomatic efforts to end the conflict.
Russia said it would send Africa specialist Mikhail Margelov to the rebel bastion of Benghazi to mediate. A high-ranking Russian source familiar with the situation confirmed to AFP on Thursday that he would also travel to Tripoli.
The source declined to say when exactly Margelov would leave for the North African country however, pointing to ongoing military operations.
The Libyan regime has already rejected any G8 mediation and said any bid to resolve the crisis would have to go through the African Union.
The talks in Rome were taking place amid tight security as around 30 heads of state were taking part, including the Afghan, Israeli and Palestinian presidents, UN chief Ban Ki-moon and Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping.
Israeli military radio reported on the possibility of an impromptu "summit" in Rome between Israeli President Shimon Peres, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Biden, although such a meeting was not on the official programme.
Peres said he was prepared to meet with Abbas but acknowledged that his visit to Rome came as part of Israeli efforts to convince European nations to oppose Palestinian plans to seek UN membership as a state in September.
"There are differences of opinion between European countries. Europe is not united on this issue. That's why the moment has come to try to wield influence," Peres told Israeli radio.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe met with Abbas in Rome on Wednesday before travelling on to Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Abbas is also set to hold talks with Pope Benedict XVI in the Vatican on Friday.
Air space over Rome was closed off and a military parade was held along Via dei Fori Imperiali -- a spectacular avenue through the ancient Roman Forum that was built by Italy's fascist dictator Benito Mussolini in the 1930s.
After the end of World War II and the killing of Mussolini, Italians voted in a popular referendum on June 2, 1946 to abolish the monarchy.
June 2 is a public holiday in Italy and is particularly significant this year as 2011 is also the 150th anniversary of Italian unification.
© 2011 AFP