Russia, China To Coordinate On Middle East, North Africa Issues

Russia and China have agreed to work together in addressing issues related to the ongoing popular uprisings in some countries in the Middle east and North Africa, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after a meeting with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi in Moscow on Friday.

"We have agreed to coordinate our actions using the abilities of both states in order to assist the earliest stabilization and prevention of the further negative unpredictable consequences there," Lavrov said at a joint news conference with Yang Jiechi after their meeting.

The Russian Foreign Minister said the positions of Moscow and Beijing, as well as the United Nations, are based on the principle that "every nation should determine its future independently without outside interference."

Regarding reports that the NATO was preparing for a ground operation in Libya, Lavrov said Moscow will oppose such a move if it is tabled in the UN Security Council (UNSC) for approval. He stressed that the UN resolution that allowed the NATO-led intervention in Libya "directly and unequivocally rules out" ground operations.

Lavrov also criticized the Libya Contact Group for taking sides with the rebels fighting the regime of Col. Moammar Qadhafi in Libya. The group, made up of 22 countries and six international organizations, had agreed on Thursday at a meeting held in Rome to make available a temporary fund of $250 million immediately for providing non-military assistance to the Libyan rebels.

Lavrov said that the contact group "is increasing its efforts to take on the leading role in determining the policy of the international community in relation to Libya," and cautioned that the group "should not seek to replace the UN Security Council, and it should not take sides."

"We proceed from the position that the informal contact group comprises responsible states and that all of them ratified the U.N. Charter and are required to respect the authority of the Security Council," he added.

The Chinese Foreign Minister also expressed similar sentiments, and called for an immediate halt to the ongoing hostilities in Libya for preventing "a great humanitarian catastrophe." He said that China was also opposed to any ground military campaign in Libya and was deeply concerned by the current situation in the north African country.

Yang added that said the "sovereignty, independence and unity of Libya must be respected. People of all countries of the world have the right to choose their path of development."

The developments come amid an ongoing NATO-led international military operation aimed at enforcing a UN-mandated no-fly zone over Libya and protect civilians from attacks by forces loyal to Qadhafi.

The NATO-led operation has also assisted the Libyan rebels in their fight against the autocratic regime of Qadhafi. The rebels have been urging the NATO in recent weeks to intensify its operations in the wake of the brutal shelling of civilian areas in the cities of Misrata and Ajdabiya by pro-Qadhafi forces.

China and Russia had abstained from voting on the UN resolution that authorized the international military operation in Libya. The two nations have often opposed the use of force against a sovereign country in the past, saying that such action would set a dangerous precedent.

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