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OIC aims to attain cease-fire in Libya by Ramadan

Source : Siraj Wahab | Arab News
JEDDAH | 13 Jul 2011

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation hopes to broker a Ramadan cease-fire for strife-torn Libya on Friday in Istanbul during a summit of world leaders on the raging conflict.

According to sources at the Jeddah-based OIC, Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu is expected to underline the need for cessation of hostilities.

Several OIC member states have maintained that both the Muammar Qaddafi-led forces in Tripoli and the Benghazi-based National Transitional Council should abide by a cease-fire until a political solution is hammered out.

The OIC is extremely concerned at the rising number of civilian deaths. Ihsanoglu has repeatedly condemned the loss of civilian lives.

“His major concern now is the fast approaching month of Ramadan,” said a political aide close to Ihsanoglu. “It is a month we spend in prayers, piety, fasting and recitation of the Holy Qur’an, and subjecting the people of Libya to daily bombardment and harassment will be simply unacceptable,” he said articulating the dominant view in the Muslim world. “One would hope for restraint during the month of Ramadan because this would certainly have some negative effects in the Muslim world.”

The aide pointed out that during the times of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) hostilities were put on hold during the month of Ramadan. It is unclear how the rebels and the Qaddafi loyalists will respond to the Ramadan concerns. Ramadan is expected this year to begin on or around Aug. 1.

Ihsanoglu is taking part in the International Contact Group on Libya, which is meeting on Friday in Istanbul. It includes the countries participating in the NATO-led “Oust Qaddafi” campaign and regional players. Turkey, the host country, has invited China and Russia to join for the first time discussions on Libya.

“Russia and China have been invited as permanent members of the UN Security Council. We think they will participate but no information has reached us so far on what level,” Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal was quoted as saying by news agencies.

Russia abstained from a vote on a Security Council resolution in March that opened the way for international involvement in Libya and has since criticized the scale and intent of the NATO-led strikes. China, for its part, has maintained a policy of non-interference in the conflict but has appeared more involved recently, and its officials have met several times with Libyan opposition representatives.

Along with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the foreign ministers of France, Italy, Britain, Australia, the UAE, Canada, Bahrain, Bulgaria, Denmark, Malta, Morocco, the Netherlands and Poland have confirmed their participation in the Istanbul meeting.

On Wednesday, Ihsanoglu dispatched a delegation to Benghazi to follow up on his political endeavors, assess the real situation and developments on the ground in Libya. The delegation earlier visited the Libyan capital of Tripoli on June 22.

The mission is headed by Mahdi Fathallah, director general of the political department at the OIC General Secretariat. He is being accompanied by Ibrahim El-Khouzeim, executive director of the OIC Islamic Solidarity Fund.

The delegation is to hold talks with the National Transitional Council in Benghazi and follow up on the resolution of the OIC ministerial-level Executive Committee which recommended dispatching a mission to assess the situation on the ground in Libya.

At the International Contact Group meeting in Istanbul, Ihsanoglu will put forth his assessment and views on the current situation in Libya.

In his speech, he is expected to outline the urgent need to cease hostilities and avoid civilian casualties. He will focus on a political solution to the crisis in Libya.

At the recent OIC foreign ministers’ conclave in Astana, Kazakhstan, the secretary-general clarified that OIC as an organization would not interfere with sovereignty issues of member states.

“It is for individual countries to recognize or not to recognize the Libyan National Transitional Council,” he said in Kazakhstan. “This is an issue that each country has to decide.”


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