China, Russia refuse to attend Libya Contact Group meeting

China and Russia announce that they will not be taking part in a Libya Contact Group meeting to be held in Istanbul, which is expected to discuss a Turkish proposed road-map for a political settlement

Invited as permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, China and Russia will not participate in the international Libya Contact Group meeting to be held Friday in Istanbul.

Russia, which is critical of the NATO-led strikes in Libya, turned down Turkey’s invitation, while China, which has maintained a policy of non-interference in the conflict, has not said it will attend the meeting, a Turkish Foreign Ministry official told the Hürriyet Daily News on Thursday.

Major Western and regional powers will gather in Istanbul for the fourth meeting of the contact group, which seeks to bring an end to the Libyan crisis. China will skip the meeting “because the function and method of operation of this contact group need further study,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Thursday.

China did not use its veto in March to block a U.N. Security Council resolution that authorized the NATO military campaign against the Libyan regime. The country has, however, recently held discussions with representatives from both Tripoli and rebel-held Benghazi, calling these talks part of an effort to encourage a negotiated end to the fighting.

Russia also abstained from a vote on the U.N. resolution and criticized the scale and intent of the NATO-led military campaign.

Turkey is expected to propose a “road map” for discussion in the meeting that aims to find a political settlement between the representatives of the Libyan regime, excluding Col. Moammar Gadhafi and his inner circle, and the opposition in the North African country.

Abdul Ilah al-Khatib, the U.N. envoy for Libya, will brief participants on his recent discussions with representatives from Tripoli and the opposition in Benghazi, the Turkish Foreign Ministry official said.

Another key issue will be the Libyan opposition’s demand for access to the regime’s frozen assets. There is expected to be discussion on a formula of giving the opposition loans using the frozen assets as a guarantee, another Turkish diplomat told the Daily News.

“Since it’s not possible to release those frozen assets right now due to lack of legal grounds, an alternative of giving a loan in return for collecting that amount from the frozen bank accounts in the future will be discussed,” the diplomat said.

Visiting Turkey last week, Mahmud Jibril, a senior member of the National Transitional Council, called on the international community to release Libyan funds frozen under sanctions against Gadhafi’s regime in order to deliver them to the opposition.

The Libya Contact Group was established in March at a London conference to solve the Libyan crisis and coordinate international efforts in this direction. The fourth meeting of the group, to be held in Istanbul, will take place under the co-chairing of Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. High-level officials from 40 countries are expected to attend.

[Source: Daily News, Ankara, 14Jul11]

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