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Conflict Again Tops Friday's Libyan Contact Group's Agenda
14/07/2011 11:14:00
Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to host Friday's meeting in Istanbul about Libya

The current situation in Libya will be top on the agenda for discussion by senior officials from the more than 40 nations supporting NATO's mission in Libya at the upcoming meeting of the so-called Libya Contact Group in Istanbul, Turkey, on Friday to be chaired by Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

In its fourth such meeting, the foreign ministers making up the Contact Group on Libya are expected to discuss, not only a peace solution to the conflict in Libya, but also ways of stepping up pressure on Libyan leader Muammar Al Qathafi to leave power. They will also be boosting support to the cash-starved opposition Transitional National Council.

Friday's Contact Group meeting comes as pressure appears to be building against the libyan regime after months of apparent stalemate between the Al Qathafi forces and the rebels.

They appear to be optimistic of success in Libya, pointing out three key indicators that could lead to the Libyan regime agree to a peace plan. They point out dwindling fuel supplies, a cash crisis and reports of low morale among regime troops.

Turkey says that when nations backing NATO’s military mission gather in Istanbul, it will propose a “road map” to help end the Libyan crisis.

Without providing much details, a Turkish Foreign Ministry official explained that participants will take up a plan outlining options to end the Libyan crisis and set the stage for a democratic transition in “line with the just expectations of the Libyan people.”

The group is also expected to assess the French authorities' report said Libyan emissaries are seeking sanctuary for Al Qathafi, who since March 29 has survived sustained bombing by NATO war planes and U.S. armed drones.

At the meeting, the United States will be represented by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has participated in two previous Contact Group sittings and who has steered clear of discussing intelligence reports from the ground.

However, Clinton strongly believes that the Libyan leader's days in power "are numbered." She has also been saying that Al Qathafi associates were sending mixed messages about whether he would be willing to step down.

AP has reported, that at a joint news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Clinton told reporters: "We are still getting contradictory signals from Col. Qathafi's camp. He has yet to meet the red lines that are set by the international community to cease violence against his people, withdraw his forces and step down from power.

"So although neither of us can predict to you the exact day or hour that Al Qathafi will leave power, we do understand and agree that his days are numbered.

“We will continue to work closely with our international partners, including Russia, to increase the pressure on him and his regime, and we will keep looking for a way to achieve a cease-fire, end the military action, give the Libyan people a chance to plot their own way forward," Clinton said.

In previous Contact Group meetings the participants moved to formalise ties with the council and provide it with financial and other assistance.

The US itself has reportedly been working for weeks to free up some of more than $30 billion in frozen Libyan regime assets in U.S. banks to support the council. Much to the council's disappointment, however, Washington has not yet recognised the group as Libya's legitimate government.

Russia and China have both been invited to the meeting in Istanbul, but both have declined the invitation and will skip the event.

The Russian foreign ministry said that Moscow would not take part in talks as it does not feel part of the group. The reason China gave for its absence is, that the function and method of operation of this contact group need further study.

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