Turkey pirouettes as Libya assaulted
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News | 3/20/2011 12:00:00 AM | FULYA ÖZERKAN
Turkey is changing its tune on intervention in Libya, saying it will make the necessary contributions to the no-fly zone it previously opposed amid hints that it might participate in a possible NATO operation to stop the crisis in the North African country. Libyan leader Gadhafi had been 'warned... to respect his people's will,' Turkey's prime minister says
Turkey is quietly trying to shift its position on outside intervention in Libya, which it previously opposed, suggesting that it approves of a NATO plan that includes both military and political measures.
The move brings Turkey closer to the international community, which initiated air strikes over the weekend on the unrest-hit North African country, ostensibly to protect civilians being targeted by embattled leader Moammar Gadhafi.
Gadhafi should have stepped down a long time ago, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Sunday, adding that Turkey cannot remain indifferent to the developments in Libya. He said he had urged the Libyan leader to appoint a president with popular support in an effort to end the crisis in his country.
“He has already passed that period, he is contradicting himself,” Erdoğan said in Jeddah. “I had warned Gadhafi to respect his people’s will.”
The shift in Turkey’s position in favor of the Western-led military operation was announced by the Foreign Ministry late Saturday in a written statement. It said Turkey would make the necessary and appropriate national contribution to implementing a U.N. no-fly zone over Libya and measures to protect civilians.
“Within that framework the necessary preparations and studies are being made in coordination with civil and military authorities,” the ministry said, without specifying how Turkey would contribute.
NATO was meeting in an emergency session as the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review went to press late Sunday. Led by Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the discussions focused on the implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution No. 1973 establishing a no-fly zone over Libya.
[HH] Three criteria for action
Any decision made by NATO would require unanimity and the vote cast by Turkey would show whether it has warmed to the idea of a NATO operation in Libya. A Western diplomat told the Daily News that the meeting was no surprise but emphasized that “planning does not necessarily mean action.”
The diplomat, who wished to remain anonymous, said three principles had been adopted: “One is to provide a legal basis for a no-fly zone and that was secured by the U.N. Security Council resolution. The second is a clear and demonstrable need for the protection of civilians. The final is to obtain regional support and we received the Arab League’s support for a no-fly zone.”
“I do not think that Turkey will oppose NATO’s decision. Turkey should have already announced its stance with regard to the implementation of the U.N. Security Council resolution,” Çağrı Erhan, a professor of international relations at Ankara University, told the private channel NTV on Sunday.
“Turkey’s policy has to be in line with its ambitions of becoming a regional leader. If Turkey had treated Gadhafi in a similar way as it did [former Egyptian President] Hosni Mubarak, perhaps we would be in a different point now,” he said.
[HH] Turkey could take part in operation
Recent events seem to indicate a softening of the Turkish stance compared to two weeks ago, when Erdoğan asked, “What business does NATO have in Libya?”
Turkey, one of the 28 members of NATO, is being represented at the alliance’s meetings and will be involved in the military planning in Libya, but it remains unclear how it would contribute to a NATO-led operation or if its role would be limited to providing logistics only. Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said Sunday that Turkey would not be involved in any military operation in Libya.
However, Turkey could take the stage without occupying the frontlines in line with a potential NATO decision to contribute to the international coalition’s military intervention in Libya. The actions it could take include participating in the command and control mechanisms under the NATO umbrella, taking part in potential humanitarian-assistance programs or sending a few warships to participate in a NATO mission to blockade the shipment of weapons to Libya.
Ankara had expressed reservations about a no-fly zone, but after the U.N. Security Council decision authorizing military action, Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said the resolution was binding on all countries. They urged Gadhafi to implement a cease-fire immediately.
“There has been no shift in our position,” a senior Foreign Ministry diplomat told the Daily News. “We have expressed our opposition to a military intervention since the very beginning and today we say the same.”
The situation in Libya has reached a dimension not desired by Turkey, Erdoğan said in a televised speech in Jeddah.
“We respect each country’s territorial integrity in our region,” he said. “We hope the military intervention will come to an end as soon as possible and Libya will [regain] stability.”
[HH] Turkey not involved in Paris meeting
The air strikes in Libya followed a meeting over the weekend in Paris of Western and Arab leaders backing the intervention. French President Nicolas Sarkozy said participants had agreed to use “all necessary means, especially military,” to enforce the Security Council resolution.
Turkey was not present in the Paris meeting but was informed about its content as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and British Foreign Secretary William Hague called Davutoğlu after the meeting, diplomatic sources said.
“We were not involved in the Paris meeting as it was within the framework of the EU, the U.S. and the Arab League. We were not invited and it is a different matter if we were ever invited but I personally think Sarkozy is trying to take a lead role,” a Foreign Ministry diplomat said. Sarkozy, a known Turkey skeptic, strongly opposes Turkey’s membership in the European Union.
[HH] Diplomatic efforts continue
At the current stage, Turkey is prioritizing diplomatic contacts with both Western powers as well as the Libyan opposition front. Ankara took a cautious approach to Gadhafi’s proposal to invite international observers, including some from Turkey, to monitor the cease-fire Libya said it declared Friday. Turkish diplomatic sources, however, said there first must be a cease-fire to monitor.
“What matters for us is the stop of bloodshed. [Gadhafi] is inviting international monitors. Did he establish a cease-fire that can be monitored?” asked one diplomat.
Turkey opposes a land operation into Libya in clear terms; the U.N. Security Council resolution already rules out such an operation.