June 8, 2011 / 2:25 PM / 9 years ago

China tells Libya envoy ceasefire is most pressing task

BEIJING, June 8 (Reuters) - China’s Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told his visiting Libyan counterpart on Wednesday that the most pressing task facing Libya was to secure a ceasefire, state media reported.

“China has all along paid close attention to the developing situation in Libya, and believes that the most urgent task is for all the parties to implement a ceasefire immediately and avoid creating a worse humanitarian disaster,” Xinhua paraphrased Yang as telling Abdelati Obeidi.

The Libya crisis should be resolved “through dialogue, discussion and political means,” Yang said.

China opposed any actions which “exceed the mandate of U.N. Security Council decisions, and upholds the respect of Libya’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, as well as the decisions of the Libyan people themselves,” he added.

Obeidi, in China until Thursday as a “special envoy” for his government, said Libya was willing to put in place a total ceasefire, and “hoped China will play a role in this,” Xinhua reported.

His trip comes as China looks to play a more active role in efforts to end fighting over the fate of Muammar Gaddafi’s government. [ID:nL3E7H70AU]

Before the Libyan envoy’s visit, a Chinese diplomat based in Egypt visited the Libyan rebel base of Benghazi for talks with the National Transitional Council, which is fighting to oust Gaddafi.

These moves came days after China said its ambassador in Qatar had met Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the rebels’ de facto political leader, in its first confirmed contact with anti-Gaddafi forces, adding to signs that Beijing is becoming more active in seeking an end to the fighting.

China, never a close ally of Gaddafi, generally tries to avoid taking sides in other countries’ domestic conflicts.

But about half of China’s crude oil imports last year came from the region, where Chinese companies have a big presence. Beijing mobilised navy ships and civilian aircraft to help tens of thousands of Chinese workers flee Libya earlier this year.

China was among the emerging powers that abstained in March when the United Nations Security Council authorised NATO-led air strikes to stop Gaddafi’s forces from threatening civilians. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)

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