Russia played host to Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi's top diplomat in Moscow, highlighting its role as an honest broker in the Libya crisis.

During an hour-long meeting with Libya's Foreign Minister Abdelati al-Obeidi late on Wednesday Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stressed “the topmost task” was to stop bloodshed and embark on a political solution that must be steered by the United Nations and the African Union, said the Foreign Ministry in a statement.

Libya's top diplomat said Tripoli would welcome “any Russian role in the peaceful settlement of the Libyan conflict” that should be “equally acceptable for all Libyans, including the opposition in Benghazi”.

Mr. Al-Obeidi is the highest-ranking Tripoli official to visit Moscow since the conflict began. Representatives of the Libyan opposition also came to Moscow two months ago. In recent weeks President Dmitry Medvedev's envoy for Africa has met both rebels in Benghazi and top officials in Tripoli. Mr. Medvedev said earlier this week that compromise between the warring sides was “attainable”.

In March, Russia abstained on U.N. Security Council resolution 1973, which called for a no-fly zone in Libya and “all necessary measures” to protect civilians but has since accused the West of overstepping the U.N. mandate and taking sides in a civil war. Moscow said Mr. Qadhafi had lost “legitimacy” but at the same time criticised the West's recognition of the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) as Libya's legitimate government.

Mr. Lavrov said earlier this week that Moscow was ready to deal with the NTC as a side in talks on Libya's future but the decision by the West-promoted Libya Contact Group to recognise the Benghazi-based Council as the sole “legitimate governing authority in Libya” was an attempt to isolate official Tripoli.

Russian envoy for Africa Mikhail Margelov said Mr. Al-Obeidi's visit to Moscow showed Russia was playing a key role in Libya peace efforts.

“Our prestige is high with both sides in the conflict,” he said. “We are probably the most ‘honest broker' because our stand is fair and unbiased.”

Keywords: Libya crisis

More In: International | News