The UN Security Council opened discussions on Friday on lifting the no-fly-zone it imposed over Libya in March and envoys said they expected it would do so after consulting the new Libyan authorities.
The action at the United Nations came as NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen, speaking the day after the death of ousted Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, said the alliance planned to end its air and sea campaign in Libya at the end of October.
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters he had circulated a draft resolution on lifting the zone at a closed-door council meeting “and I am very pleased that the council has decided to take it up.”
“Crucial changes have taken place in the situation in Libya, we expect a declaration of liberation to be announced ... so, given all those circumstances, it’s time to wrap it up, including the no-fly-zone,” he said.
The no-fly-zone and a provision in resolution 1973 of March 17 calling for protection of Libyan civilians in the country’s civil conflict spurred NATO to launch bombing raids that played a key role in helping rebels overthrow Col. Gadhafi’s rule.
Russia and some other council members accused the West of abusing the resolution to carry out “regime change” in the North African country, but Friday’s comments by diplomats suggested the dispute was easing now that the war looked virtually over.
Western envoys said the Russian proposal also called for lifting the provision on civilian protection, but they said it was important to co-ordinate with Libya’s ruling National Transitional Council, or NTC.
The Russians “admitted that they hadn’t actually consulted the Libyan authorities at all, and every member state said of course the Libyan authorities need to be consulted,” British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said.
Senior NTC officials had “made clear they didn’t want a premature ending of the military authorizations, so we want to proceed in a slightly more measured way,” he said.
But both he and French Ambassador Gerard Araud said they expected a resolution would be negotiated, with talks beginning in the middle of next week. “I think the timeline is around the 31st of October,” Lyall Grant said.
“We all share the view that now we are in the phasing out of the operation of resolution 1973 ... (but) we have to do it properly,” Mr. Araud said.
The Russian text “is a bit too simple,” he said. “For instance, the no-fly-zone, the problem is the airspace. For the moment the airspace is controlled by NATO, so you have to transfer the control of the airspace to the Libyan authorities.”