Turkey uneasy over military operations in Libya

A NATO member with a majority of Muslim population, Turkey is uneasy about West-led foreign military operations in Libya and especially reluctant to agree on a NATO intervention since the UN endorsed a no-fly zone in the violence-scarred country.

Facing escalating tensions in Libya, once part of the Ottoman Empire, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet high- level officials of the General Staff, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) after his arrival from a visit in Saudi Arabia on Monday to discuss the crisis.

Erdogan, who urged Libya’s long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi to meet the demand of his people for democracy at the beginning of sweeping protests, has opposed NATO intervention in the country, saying military actions do not help find solutions.

Turkey has conditions if NATO is going to conduct military operations in Libya, Erdodan was quoted by Turkish media as saying during his visit in Saudi Arabia on Monday.

“If NATO is joining a military operation in Libya, it must do so with the recognition and acknowledgement that Libya belongs to the Libyans, not for the distribution of its underground resources and wealth,” he said.

Libyan people should determine their own future and Turkey hopes the current military operations in Libya would end as soon as possible, said the prime minister.

“We wanted a peaceful transformation in Libya from the very beginning. We carried out an intensive diplomacy traffic on the matter. But our warnings were not listened, promises were not kept and international military intervention occurred,” he was quoted by the semi-official Anatolia news agency as saying.

The UN Security Council last week passed a resolution on endorsing a no-fly zone and authorizing “all necessary measures,” an appointed reference to military operations, to protect civilians in Libya.

Ankara has voiced support for the UN resolution but reiterated opposition to foreign intervention in Libya.

In response to Libya’s request for Turkey to act as an observer over a ceasefire announced by the Libyan government following the UN resolution on Friday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Turkey was ready to step in and do its part if a ceasefire was implemented.

However, he warned Libya that a no-fly zone would be enforced if efforts failed to prevent the suffering of Libyan civilians.

With the UN endorsement, France, Britain and the United States, also NATO members, have been carrying out strikes individually on Libyan targets since Saturday.

Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a Saturday statement Turkey’s contribution to implementing the UN resolution will be “necessary and appropriate” and that preparations were being made by civil and military authorities in coordination.

Turkey had told the United States and Britain that it attached great importance to implementing the UN resolution in a manner to secure the territorial integrity of Libya and ensure Libyan people ‘s peace, security and prosperity, according to the statement, which came after the first round of West-led air strikes against Libya.

As a NATO member since 1952, Turkey remains adverse to a military intervention under the NATO alliance.

Following a marathon run of meetings in Brussels, NATO ambassadors failed to agree on how the alliance would participate in enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya on Sunday.

Foreign Minister Davutoglu said Monday foreign military operations in Libya had not followed procedures under international laws, urging interventions in Libya should be conducted within the laws.

Turkey supports UN Security Council’s resolution on Libya but ” that decision does not aim to start a comprehensive war,” he told reporters in Ankara.

“It should not be a long war such as that in Afghanistan or Iraq,” he said.

Meanwhile, Turkish National Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul said Monday it was the UN’s decision, not NATO’s, to set up a no-fly zone in Libya.

Participation in the UN operation in Libya was on a voluntary basis and the United Nations did not demand any combat forces for the operation, he said, noting that Turkey had difficulty in understanding France’s leading role in using force against Libya.

Turkey had given priority to evacuating Turkish citizens, international legitimacy and regional support over the Libya issue, the Anatolia quoted diplomatic sources as saying.

Some 25,000 to 30,000 Turkish nationals were working or living in Libya before violence swept the North African country amid protests against decades-long rule of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

More than 200 Turkish firms were operating for projects worth around 15 billion U.S. dollars in Libya, most of them construction projects.


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