Russian envoy will attend 'friends of Libya' meeting

31st August 2011, Comments 0 comments

President Dmitry Medvedev's envoy will attend the conference for "friends of Libya" in Paris, despite Russia's suspicion of the Western-backed ousting of Moamer Kadhafi, officials said Wednesday.

"Mikhail Margelov is going to Paris for the meeting after receiving an invitation," a source in the Russian foreign ministry told Interfax.

Margelov, the Kremlin's envoy for Africa, himself confirmed to RIA Novosti that "Russia will take part" although, oddly, he did not make clear if he would be the representative at the meeting.

"On the order of the president of the Russian Federation, Russia will take part in the Libya conference. Our country was one of the first to be invited," he was quoted as saying.

Senior officials from around 60 countries will meet in Paris on Thursday in a bid to secure financial and diplomatic support for the fledgling revolutionary regime.

Russia had earlier appeared to be keeping its distance from the conference, after refusing to join the international Contact Group on Libya during the conflict and vehemently criticising the Western air campaign.

Moscow had called for Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi to step down but also angrily accused the West of siding with the rebels in a civil war.

It has yet to recognise the National Transitional Council (NTC) as anything more than a negotiating partner.

In contradiction with Margelov's comments, foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said on August 25 that Russia "never received an invitation" for the conference.

Lukashevich stressed "the importance of the UN Security Council playing a leading role in this process", indicating Moscow's suspicion of efforts outside the framework of the United Nations.

Margelov told RIA Novosti however that this did not preclude Russia taking part in international meetings on Libya.

"Russia's participation in the conference is aimed at acquainting ourselves with the work of this forum, its true possibilities and the will to follow up the tasks it agrees," Margelov said.

He suggested that the meeting would allow the world to move on from the diplomatic disputes that erupted during the conflict and help Libya rebuild.

"The conference will draw a line under the Contact Group and put in place a new international format for supporting the people and state-building in Libya," he said.

Margelov's participation still means that Russia will be represented at a much lower level than other powers at the meeting.

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain will jointly host the event, while the United States and Turkey will be represented by foreign ministers Hillary Clinton and Ahmet Davutoglu.

China, which like Russia has not officially recognised the NTC, said it was sending Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun to "observe" the Paris conference.

Russia abstained from the UN resolution on a no fly zone in Libya, effectively allowing the military action to go ahead. But it then appeared disgruntled with the campaign and its companies now risk losing out in the new Libya.

© 2011 AFP

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