MOSCOW (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday urged Libyan authorities to “stop fighting and stop killing people” and said the priority of the world body was to secure a ceasefire.
“At this time our priority is to bring about a verifiable and effective ceasefire, and then we can expand our humanitarian assistance, and we are going to engage in political dialogue,” Ban said during a visit to the Russian capital.
“I urge the Libyan authorities to stop fighting and stop killing people,” he told reporters.
Ban said more than half a million people had fled the fighting in Libya between forces loyal to President Muammar Gaddafi and rebels.
Hundreds of people are thought to have been killed.
Ban is to hold talks with President Dmitry Medvedev on Friday, with Russian warnings against excess interference in Libya due to top the agenda.
“Russia’s position is that the choice of Libya’s path of development is without question the prerogative of the Libyan people,” the Kremlin said ahead of the talks.
“The International community must cooperate to help resolve the conflict by peaceful means without interference in the internal affairs of the this state.”
A U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing force to protect civilians in Libya by enforcing a no-fly zone must be implemented precisely according to its “letter and spirit” and “without exceeding its mandate,” the Kremlin said.
Russia, a veto-wielding permanent U.N. Security Council member, abstained from the vote on the resolution, but has repeatedly criticized the extend of the coalition operation.
Initially, leaders of the NATO Western military alliance had ruled out sending ground troops to Libya, but EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said this week the bloc’s members would consider such a step if the U.N. requested it.
Russia’s Foreign Minister had earlier on Thursday slammed Britain and France’s decision to send military advisers to Libya, saying it reached beyond the U.N. resolution and warned it would drag the world into a ground war.
“We are not happy about the latest events in Libya, which are pulling the international community into a conflict on the ground,” Sergei Lavrov said.
Additional reporting by Marja Novak; Writing by Alissa de Carbonnel