Egyptians evacuated from Libya by Turkish ships arrive home

March 08, 2011, Tuesday/ 17:08:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

Two Turkish boats have evacuated a total of 1,156 Egyptian nationals from Libya, bringing them from Tripoli to the Egyptian port city of Alexandria as part of Turkey’s efforts to assist nationals of other countries stranded in Libya amid a violent uprising.

The Turkish General Staff website said in a statement on Sunday that the Alexandria-bound Samsun ferry left Tripoli on Friday with 1,076 Egyptian citizens, accompanied by the frigate TCG Gelibolu for security reasons, which carried an additional 81 Egyptians. The two ships arrived in Alexandria on Monday.

Libya has been rocked by unrest for weeks, and the country’s leader, Muammar Gaddafi, has launched by far the bloodiest crackdown in a wave of anti-government uprisings sweeping the Arab world. Human rights groups and European officials have put the death toll at hundreds, or perhaps thousands, though it has been virtually impossible to verify the numbers.

Turkey, which declared the safe evacuation of its nationals (approximately 30,000) from Libya a top priority in the first days of the crisis, has since then brought more than 22,000 Turks home on planes, ferries and buses that transported people from Libya to neighboring Tunisia and Egypt. The Samsun ferry was one of the ships used in the evacuation of Turkish nationals. Turkish officials said authorities have evacuated all Turkish nationals in Libya who want to leave. But Turkey’s ambassador to Libya, Levent Şahinkaya, told the Anatolia news agency on Sunday that nearly 40 Turkish citizens have applied to the embassy to be evacuated. Şahinkaya said 70 diplomatic missions of various countries out of a total of 100 have been closed down for security reasons, but with 23 workers, the Turkish Embassy in Tripoli will continue its work.

In addition to its nationals, Turkey has also evacuated 4,800 foreigners from 65 countries, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told reporters on Saturday.

Also on Saturday, Syrian Ambassador to Turkey Nidal Kabalan thanked the Turkish authorities for their assistance in the evacuation of Syrian nationals. He was speaking about the 822 Syrians who were evacuated from Libya on a Panama-flagged cargo ship that arrived in Turkey’s southern port of Marmaris. More than 130 of the Syrians were either children or pregnant women.

“I want to thank the Turkish people and the government for their assistance and hospitality,” Kabalan said. The ambassador said everyone from the governor of Muğla, where the port of Marmaris is located, to the head of the Muğla Police Department -- all Turkish officials -- were there to meet the Syrian evacuees.

“Turkish officials have done a great job. We have done everything to meet the needs of Syrian and Turkish citizens in Libya. We have worked as a team both in Ankara and in Syria. I thank Turkey on behalf of the Syrian people and the government,” the Syrian ambassador said.

Speaking at a meeting with businessmen in İzmir on Sunday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan praised Turkey’s success in evacuating its nationals from Libya.

Erdoğan said Turkey has evacuated almost all its nationals in Libya and thousands of citizens of other countries. “Turkey’s operation had reverberations all across the world and was shown with praise and appreciation as an example,” the prime minister stressed.

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