France: Libya Diplomatic Opening Possible

Posted July 12th, 2011 at 5:50 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

France's foreign minister says NATO members have had contact with emissaries from Moammar Gadhafi who say the embattled Libyan leader is ready to give up power.

Alain Juppe said Tuesday the discussions do not yet constitute fully-fledged negotiations. But, he said, emissaries are telling French officials that, in their words, “Mr. Gadhafi is prepared to go. Let's talk about it.”

Juppe said the Libyan government is “sending messengers everywhere, to Turkey, New York, Paris.”

The reliability of the emissaries' information remains unclear. Mr. Gadhafi has so far refused to leave or give up power and previous peace offers from his government have come to nothing.

Also Tuesday, Libyan Prime Minister Baghdadi al-Mahmudi told France's Le Figaro newspaper that his government is ready to begin talks with Paris and Libyan rebels “without preconditions.” He said Mr. Gadhafi – whom he referred to as The Guide – would not take part in the discussions.

A spokesman for the rebel Transitional National Council said opposition forces would only respond to “serious initiatives” that include the departure from power of Mr. Gadhafi and his sons.

Earlier Tuesday, French lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to extend funding that will allow France to continue its role in the NATO-led military campaign in Libya.

In Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama has said he is prepared to support Russia's mediation efforts in Libya as long as they lead to a democratic transition and Mr. Gadhafi's departure.

Russian envoys have traveled to Libya to meet with government and rebel representatives.

The Libyan opposition has long rejected any negotiations with the Gadhafi government while he remains in charge.

France says it has sent messages to the Libyan government saying Mr. Gadhafi must step down as part of any political solution to the five-month conflict with rebel forces fighting to end his 42-year rule.

France wants opposition fighters to do more to end the conflict due to concerns about the mounting cost of the military campaign.

Also Monday, the United Nations envoy for Libya, Abdel Elah al-Khatib, said he has urged direct talks between Mr. Gadhafi's government and the rebels, but acknowledged the two sides remain far apart.

Khatib said one of the key issues is agreeing on an institutional body to manage a political transition. He said any such group would have to be “all-inclusive and involve representatives from all political and social groups, as well as a wide range of factions, regions and tribes.”