Diplomats of the Contact Group on Libya have agreed to speed up the release of some $2.5 billion dollars in frozen Libyan assets by the middle of next week, a senior rebel official said Thursday, as Russia stressed it was important that the UN Security Council play a “leading role” in post-Qaddafi Libya.
“There are not promises, but there is something on the ground moving. We will get about $2.5 billion before the end of the month,” Fathi Baja, the head of the rebel political affairs committee, said after the meeting in Istanbul.
The international community is “very close” to releasing the assets, Baja said.
Billions of dollars of cash, property and other assets in the West belonging to the regime of embattled Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi were frozen in February under a UN Security Council resolution.
The National Transitional Council (NTC) sought $5 billion in emergency aid from frozen Libyan assets at a previous Contact Group meeting in Doha on Wednesday.
In a statement released after the meeting, the Contact Group urged the UN Security Council to unlock the frozen Libyan assets.
In line with the conclusions of the Doha meeting, the group “decided to start a process to unfreeze the frozen Libyan assets in an expedited manner,” the statement said.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland echoed the statement.
“Delegations underscored the urgent financial needs of the TNC and called for an expedited process to unfreeze Libyan assets,” Nuland said in a statement.
She said Arab delegates briefed the meeting on what to expect from the NTC’s participation in an Arab League meeting on Saturday. The NTC will represent Libya for the first time at the Cairo meeting, the league said.
The NTC and other delegates also “emphasized the need for reconciliation, respect for human rights, and justice, not retribution” in a future Libya without strongman Qaddafi.
“There was also a collective affirmation of the need for Libya’s transition to be Libyan-led, with close coordination between the (NTC) and international partners,” Nuland said.
Attending the meeting in Istanbul were representatives from 28 countries, as well as from the United Nations, European Union, NATO, the African Union, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Arab League, Nuland said.
Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, and senior Libyan rebel figure Mahmud Jibril were expected to hold a joint news conference later on Thursday.
Russia stressed on Thursday it was important that the UN Security Council play a “leading role” in post-Qaddafi Libya as the six-month rebellion against its old ally appeared to be drawing to an end.
The Russian foreign ministry said Russia’s top diplomat, Sergei Lavrov, and UN chief Ban Ki-moon had earlier in the day discussed global assistance to Libya’s transition following the ouster of Qaddafi.
“The importance of the UN Security Council playing a leading role in this process has been stressed by the Russian side,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
Russia, which has traditionally had close ties to Qaddafi, has not rushed to recognize the new regime, with President Dmitry Medvedev saying the Kremlin would recognize the Libyan rebels if they “unite the country.”
Medvedev warned on Wednesday that the Kremlin’s old ally Qaddafi still retained influence in the North African country.