Beijing ready for more talks with Libya’s rebels

After meeting representative of Libyan government, Foreign Ministry wants to see the opposition again

Beijing said yesterday it was ready to receive envoys from Libya’s rebel-led National Transitional Council and to provide humanitarian aid to the war-torn country, further engaging China in the conflict.

“We are ready to receive a visit from the council representatives in the near future,” Chen Xiaodong , director general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ West Asian and North African Affairs Department, told Xinhua. “China would like to stay in touch with Libyan parties, including the NTC, to support African countries’ proposals for resolving the Libya issue, and expects both sides of Libya to consider and respond to the proposals.”

Chen did not give a timetable for when the Libyan rebel forces would come to China.

China has stepped up contact with both sides in Libya – the rebels and the forces loyal to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Chen’s announcement came after Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi received Abdul Ati Al-Obidi, special envoy of the Libyan government, on Monday.

China’s first contact with Libya’s opposition group took place on June 2 when the ambassador to Qatar, Zhang Zhiliang , met rebel leader Abdel Jalil in Doha.

On Monday, Li Lianhe , minister counsellor of the embassy in Egypt, went to the rebel-held city of Benghazi, where he met Jalil and checked on Chinese companies. Chen said the Chinese, as friends of the Libyans, were concerned with the deteriorating conditions.

“China is evaluating the current humanitarian conditions in Libya and will consider providing additional humanitarian aid,” Chen said.

China has provided US$1 million in cash to Egypt and given Tunisia US$2 million in cash and relief supplies worth 30 million yuan (HK$36 million) to help the countries accommodate Libyan refugees.

He Wenping , director of the African Studies Institute at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said China needed to understand the current and future situation in Libya to determine what role to play in resolving the crisis as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei did not say whether China had shifted its stance to recognise Libyan rebel forces, but stressed that the crisis should be tackled through political means and that the future of the country should be decided by Libyans.

Yang told his Libyan counterpart on Monday that a ceasefire in the oil-rich nation was crucial. “It is a top priority for related parties to reach a ceasefire to avoid greater humanitarian disasters and to solve the Libya crisis through political means,” he said.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse

South China Morning Post

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