South African President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday called for Libya to urgently begin peace negotiations, after his talks with Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev on the sidelines of a NATO meeting.
“We emphasised the importance of starting negotiations urgently, and we requested NATO to assist to persuade the TNC (the rebel’s Transitional National Council) to remove some of the preconditions that are making it hard or impossible to start with the negotiation process,” Zuma said.
Zuma is part of a team leading efforts by the African Union to push a regional peace plan to end the conflict — a blueprint so far rejected by the rebels, who insisted that Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi must first cede power.
The AU plan calls for both sides in the Libyan conflict to hold talks and for a multinational peacekeeping force organised by the United Nations to supervise a ceasefire.
During his visit to Sochi, Zuma also met with NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who was there for a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council.
“We were also very pleased that President Medvedev assured us of his country’s support of the AU roadmap. We agree that the military solution is not the correct way to resolve problem,” Zuma said in a statement.
Zuma said South Africa had “reiterated our concerns about the misinterpretation of the UN resolution” authorising a no-fly zone over Libya, which NATO has used to justify its bombing campaign.
South Africa voted for the resolution, but has since criticised NATO’s bombing as excessive. Russia abstained from the vote on the UN Security Council, but has criticised the scale and intent of the campaign.
Although no major progress was seen after the meeting in the Russian city of Sochi, Zuma said called the talks “very successful”.
“I am confident that it will contribute significantly to reaching a solution that will bring peace and stability in Libya,” he said.