Negotiation possible in Libyan crisis, says France
Libyan and French officials say there is a real chance of negotiating Moamar Kadhafi’s removal from power to bring an end to the stalemate in the four month-old conflict in Libya.
Kadhafi’s Prime Minister Baghdadi al-Mahmudi told French daily, Le Figaro , that the embattled regime was ready to begin talks with Paris and the rebels without the interference of the “Guide”.
“We are ready to negotiate unconditionally. We simply want a stop to the bombardments. We cannot talk as bombs rain down,” he said.
France was more cautious but did confirm it is in indirect talks with Tripoli. It has previously insisted military action will continue until Kadhafi is removed from power, but with the costly campaign dragging on and little sign of a breakthrough on the ground, Paris appears ready to talk.
Foreign Minister Alain Juppé told France Info radio that there had been contacts but it had not turned into real negotiation.
“We are meeting envoys who say to us: look Kadhafi is ready to go let’s talks about it,” he said.
He stressed the conditions for a ceasefire had not yet been met. These include the presence of UN monitors in the country, the return of Kadhafi’s troops to their barracks and a declaration that the Libyan leader is withdrawing from political and military power.
Mahmud Shamman, spokesman for the rebel National Transitional Council said they would only respond to ‘serious initiatives’ concerning the departure of Kadhafi from power.
The military situation in Libya has stabilised with much of the country in rebel hands, but Kadhafi’s forces still control Tripoli and most western towns.
France has been building support among Libya’s partners in the African Union for its attempt to negotiate Kadhafi’s departure. On Sunday, Juppé visited AU headquarters in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, French officials claim leading members are now ready to accept his departure.