Turkish PM criticizes airstrikes on Libya as NATO continues debate
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News | 3/22/2011 12:00:00 AM |
Criticizing the Western-led airstrikes in Libya, PM Erdoğan vowed Tuesday that Turkey would never point guns at the Libyan people, a position he said Ankara would make clear to NATO.
Criticizing the Western-led airstrikes in Libya, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowed Tuesday that Turkey would never point guns at the Libyan people, a position he said Ankara would make clear to NATO.
Speaking to his party’s parliamentary group amid ongoing debate about how NATO should proceed on the issue, Erdoğan said the United Nations should only head up humanitarian operations, not military ones, in Libya.
“We saw in the past such [military] operations increasing the loss of lives. We’ll of course question and criticize the Paris meeting,” the prime minister said to deputies from his ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, referring to the summit Saturday that preceded France’s launch of the first airstrikes on the crisis-hit North African nation.
“The operation should proceed on legitimate grounds,” Erdoğan said, adding that Ankara’s position would be explained to its NATO allies Tuesday at a meeting in Brussels.
Disagreements on the intervention among NATO member states have largely been eliminated, with Turkey’s reservations taken into consideration, according to news reports from Brussels. The private channel NTV meanwhile reported that Adm. James Stavridis, NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe, will visit Turkey on Thursday.
NATO officials met again Tuesday in Brussels after failing to reach a consensus agreement Monday among the alliance’s 28 member states about intervention in Libya. Erdoğan said Monday that his government would give conditional support to a NATO-led operation, as long as it is done to ensure that Libya belongs to its people, not to distribute the country’s natural resources to outside powers, and as long as the intervention does not turn into an occupation.
On Tuesday, Erdoğan said Turkey was willing to be involved in the distribution of humanitarian aid in Libya, to manage the Benghazi airport and to deploy naval forces to control the area between Benghazi and the Greek island of Crete.
“We do not want Libya to become a second Iraq ... A civilization in Iraq collapsed within eight years. More than a million people were killed there,” daily Hürriyet quoted him as telling reporters Monday on a flight back from a visit to Saudi Arabia.
“We will not participate with our fighting forces. It is impossible for us to think that our fighters would drop bombs over the Libyan people,” he said.
Erdoğan discussed the situation in Libya with U.S. President Barack Obama in a telephone conversation late Monday after chairing a summit with his ministers and military commanders. The prime minister did not give details of the talks.
France taking the lead in the Libya operation drew criticism from Ankara, with Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül on Monday, saying: “We are having difficulty understanding [France] acting like it is the only executor of the U.N. resolution.”
U.N. Security Council Resolution No. 1973 established a no-fly zone over Libya.
[HH] A Libya session in Parliament
The Turkish government is planning to hold a Libya session in Parliament, according to Erdoğan. Sources said the session could be a closed one. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu will meanwhile brief opposition parties about the government’s stance on an operation in Libya, meeting with Republican People’s Party, or CHP, leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu at 11 a.m. Wednesday. The Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, however, rejected Davutoğlu's request for a briefing.
The fact that the Libya operation is being perceived as targeting the country’s oil resources proved the rightness of Turkey’s position, Erdoğan said in Parliament.
“We see the well-being and domestic peace of the Libyan people as fundamental goals. Turkey will never be a party that points a gun at the Libyan people,” the prime minister said. “Turkey’s policy is very clear, its attitude is clear ... Our relations with Libya have nothing to do with oil or [other] interests. Our Libyan brothers know very well Turkey has made no such calculations.”