Libya FM to hold talks in Cyprus

Wednesday 13 Apr 2011

Gaddafi sends Libya FM to hold official talks with Cyprus government in diplomatic offensive among Mediterranean nations

Libyan Foreign Minister Abdelati Laabidi was headed for talks in Cyprus Wednesday as Muammer Gaddafi's regime pressed a diplomatic offensive among Mediterranean nations while Western governments pushed for tougher military action.

"The foreign minister of Libya, Abdelati Laabidi, arrives in Cyprus today and will have discussions with Foreign Minister Marcos Kyprianou tomorrow (Thursday)," a brief government announcement said.

"Mr Laabidi has also visited Greece, Malta and Turkey," it noted.

A Cypriot official told AFP that the visit came at the request of the Libyan authorities. "We will listen to what he has to say," the official added.

Cyprus is a member of the European Union and is also host to two large British sovereign bases from which reconnaissance flights have been flown as part of the NATO-led air operation in Libya.

But President Demetris Christofias made clear last month that he opposed the use of the British bases for the enforcement of the UN-imposed no-fly zone, although he acknowledged that he had no authority to stop the former colonial power from exercising the sovereign rights it retained after independence.

A number of Greek Cypriot politicians, particularly from the leftist opposition EDEK party, have maintained good relations with Gaddafi's regime.

In the run-up to the Turkish invasion of the island's northern third in 1974, Libya was widely reported to have delivered weapons to the party's armed wing.

Laabidi's visit came as an international contact group on the Libyan conflict was meeting in Qatar amid mounting pressure from Britain and France for tougher NATO military action against Gaddafi's forces.

The minister, who was recently named to replace Mussa Kussa who defected to Britain last month and was due to attend meetings in Qatar ahead of the contact group talks, travelled to Cyprus through Tunisia.

He crossed through the main Ras Jedir land border post and then took a flight from Tunisia's southern Djerba-Zarzis airport, the state TAP news agency said.

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