Turkey calls for cease-fire in Libya, opposes intervention

TODAY’S ZAMAN
?STANBUL


Permanent representatives from the UK and the US vote to approve a resolution that authorizes a no-fly zone over Libya during a meeting of the UN Security Council on Thursday.

NATO member Turkey called for a cease-fire in Libya on Friday after the UN Security Council authorized a no-fly zone and the use of force against forces of Muammar Gaddafi to help rebels revolting against his rule.
“We want an immediate cease-fire to be secured and an immediate end to the bloodshed and violence against civilians,” a statement released by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an’s office, said. “We expect steps in this direction to be taken right now without losing any time and expect the people’s demands for change and transformation to be met.”
The statement came hours after the Libyan government declared a cease-fire in the country. Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa said the decision to declare a cease-fire was made to protect civilians and comply with the UN resolution passed on Thursday night. “We decided on an immediate cease-fire and on an immediate stop to all military operations,” he told reporters. “[Libya] takes great interest in protecting civilians,” he said, adding that the country would also protect all foreigners and foreign assets in Libya.

But it was not clear whether the Libyan decision to instate a cease-fire would prevent military action by a group of countries that indicated willingness to participate in a possible operation against Libyan forces. Britain, which had earlier in the day said that it was starting to move fighter jets to bases from where they can help enforce a no-fly zone over Libya, gave a cautious reaction to the cease-fire, with Prime Minister David Cameron saying Gaddafi would be judged by actions, not words. France was also cautious, saying the threat on the ground in Libya had not been lifted.

The UN Security Council resolution allowed “all necessary measures” to protect civilians but refrained from authorizing a foreign occupation force. This means jets may strike ground targets and Libyan aircraft.

Turkey, which has opposed foreign intervention in Libya from the outset, said after the UN resolution that it backed a no-fly zone over Libya but reiterated opposition to foreign military action in the North African country.

“We have expressed at the highest level our heartfelt support for the Arab League’s call to the UN Security Council for…a no-fly zone. At the same time we have noted our opposition to foreign intervention in friend and brother Libya,” the Prime Ministry’s statement said.

But this opposition is not rock solid. Officials speaking to Today’s Zaman said on Friday that Turkey might reconsider its position in the event of a radical change in circumstances, such as a serious humanitarian crisis.

Military action authorized by the UN against Libyan forces loyal to Gaddafi could take place under NATO command or under a coalition of the willing led by France and Britain. Turkey’s position is of key importance when it comes to prospects for a NATO operation in Libya because any NATO operation needs to be approved by the 28 member states. Turkey has earlier spoken against NATO intervention in Libya but it is not the only member to do so. Germany, which abstained the UN vote on Thursday, too, is reluctant.

Although Ankara is opposed to foreign military action in Libya, it is unlikely that it would block any NATO action should the rest of the allies agree on an operation, according to officials close to discussions on the issue. That means Ankara seems more likely to effectively abstain if other NATO members decide to take military action against Gaddafi’s forces.

NATO ambassadors were to meet on Friday to discuss their response to the UN resolution. A NATO statement said the meeting would discuss “planning for all eventualities” and reiterated NATO conditions for any alliance operation: a demonstrable need for the alliance to act, firm regional support and a clear legal basis. “Under those three conditions NATO stands ready to act as part of a broad international effort,” the statement said.

A joint Turkish-US base in southern Turkey has been used in NATO operations and training in the past.

Abiding by UN resolution

Turkey, NATO’s only Muslim member and a rising diplomatic and economic voice in the Middle East, has repeatedly spoken out against foreign military intervention in Libya, where Turkish firms have projects worth more than $15 billion.

The prime minister’s office said the UN Security Council decision was binding on all countries, but said a peaceful solution to the conflict should be found. Prime Minister Erdo?an, who has earlier criticized the Western nations for focusing on their “oil interests” in Libya, recently called on Gaddafi to appoint a political figure who enjoys popular support to end the crisis.

Turkey has backed protests in Egypt, which resulted in the toppling of long-time President Hosni Mubarak. But it refrained from confronting Gaddafi, initially out of fear that this could harm its 30,000 nationals in Libya, and opposed foreign military intervention, saying Libyan opposition groups do not want it.

Commenting on the UN decision, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davuto?lu said Turkey has always called on the governments in the region to heed people’s rightful demands for democratic transformation. “Libya is no exception in this regard. We have given Libyan authorities advice at all levels,” he told reporters, emphasizing that the continuation of attacks on civilians has led to a “justified outcry.”

“We hope these attacks will stop in the aftermath of this resolution and we will not face situations that will further aggravate the suffering of our Libyan brothers,” Davuto?lu said.

“It is our main expectation that a democratic transformation which would allow peoples’ legitimate demands [for reform] to be met peacefully take place and that such demands not be responded to by the use of force,” the Prime Ministry’s statement said.President Abdullah Gül said in a statement: “It’s about international legitimacy now. We think it is right to act within this framework.”


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