Medvedev Seeks Talks on Middle East With Biden, Berlusconi

Thursday, 02 Jun 2011 09:30 AM

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev plans to hold talks with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on a range of issues, including the Middle East and Libya.

“I hope we will manage in trilateral format with the participation of Vice President Biden to talk about the Mideast situation and the situation around Libya,” Medvedev said today in Rome after talks with Berlusconi. “Yet this is not the only topic. There is a whole range of issues where we should exchange information, where adjusting positions is important.”

Russia has stepped up diplomatic efforts for a Libyan settlement since last week’s Group of Eight summit in France, where Medvedev for the first time publicly backed NATO calls for Qaddafi’s ouster amid a revolt that began Feb. 17. Medvedev is sending Mikhail Margelov, his special envoy for Libya, to the port city of Benghazi for talks with rebel leaders.

Any solution must be “acceptable to all Libyans,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said yesterday during an interview in Moscow. Russia, which abstained from the March 18 vote by the United Nations Security Council that authorized the use of force to protect civilians from Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s forces, opposes Security Council involvement in Syria, he said.

“Today we exchanged impressions on how the process of regulating the Libyan situation is going,” Medvedev said. “We would greatly like to assist in solving this problem, not by military means but by means of talks so that the fate of the state is decided by the Libyan people.”

The U.S. and its partners, including France and the U.K., launched the first attacks under the UN resolution on March 19. NATO took command on March 31 and yesterday extended its mission for 90 days in what Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said was “a clear message” that “we are determined to continue our operation to protect the people of Libya.”

The air raids killed 718 civilians and wounded 4,067 from March 19 to May 26, Agence France Presse reported, citing a spokesman for Libya’s government.

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