Ankara clearly expressed on Monday its uneasiness regarding fellow NATO member France's “prominent role” in the UN-mandated intervention in Libya, signaling further disagreements within the alliance.
“It seems impossible for us to understand France being so prominent in this process. We are having difficulty in understanding it acting like the enforcer of United Nations decisions,” Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül told reporters at his office as he met with visiting Macedonian Defense Minister Zoran Konjanovski and the accompanying delegation.
“But afterwards it was understood that the United States is in command,” he said.
Several NATO nations, led by France, Britain and the US, have taken part in air attacks on Libya launched on Sunday. But they have acted as individual nations rather than members of the alliance and NATO as an organization, which makes every decision based on consensus, has been divided on whether to take part.
Turkey, which has spoken against intervention in Libya and has called for an immediate cease-fire, wants careful planning on the planned NATO involvement due to concerns over protecting the alliance's prestige in an operation to be launched on a Muslim country.
Thus, France's rush to kick off air attacks sparked reaction in Ankara. On Friday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu met with Nasser al-Mani, a member of the interim administration formed in Benghazi after the popular uprising against Gaddafi. Turkey believes that related procedure in international law has not been fully implemented on the issue of forming the coalition concerning Libya, Davutoğlu told reporters in Ankara on Monday.
Recalling that Turkey has been in close contact with the Libyan administration, the National Council in Benghazi and international parties to have the transformation in Libya finalized peacefully, Davutoğlu said Turkey has called on everybody to act responsibly on the issue of providing the necessary infrastructure so that Libya would come out of this process stronger.
On the day (Thursday) when the UN Security Council adopted a resolution imposing a no-fly zone over Libya and measures to protect civilians from leader Gaddafi’s forces, Turkey hosted representatives of the National Council, while holding intense negotiations with both of the parties in Libya, he explained.
“We exerted our best efforts to have this issue settled within Libya using all diplomatic tools -- some of which you know of and some you do not know about. Perhaps, these have not been comprehended fully, but history will confirm how Turkey acted responsibly on this issue and how it displayed a friendly manner towards Libya,” Davutoğlu said.
Turkey also expressed its support for the UN resolution, he said and added: “However, here, the goal is providing humanitarian assistance; preventing heavier conflicts inside the country via an arms embargo; and preventing conflicts via the imposition of a no-fly zone -- but not to start a comprehensive war. We took pains so that there wouldn’t be signs of an operation directed at Libya which would be comprehensive and long-term, similar to those in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we made suggestions to every party.”
Ahead of the summit of European, US and Arab leaders hosted on Saturday in Paris on the Libya issue, Turkey conveyed all of these considerations to both British Foreign Secretary William Hague and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Davutoğlu said.
“Before everything else, there is a procedure in international law for the forming of such a coalition. We don’t have the conviction that this procedure has been applied sufficiently. We also conveyed that we found it inappropriate that an operation -- which should have been under UN governance and which should have been absolutely within the parameters of fundamental UN principles and which should have been open to participation -- is launched at a meeting attended by a small group of countries. A decision was made and the operation was started. While the operation has been going on, we made all kinds of suggestions to all parties regarding acting responsibly, not leading to human casualties and the protection of peace and soundness of Libyan people,” he said.
At NATO headquarters
NATO ambassadors approved an operations plan for the alliance to help enforce a UN arms embargo on Libya on Sunday, a NATO statement said.
A NATO official said more discussion was needed on another plan for possible NATO involvement in enforcing a UN no-fly zone over Libya. Alliance member Turkey, which has spoken against intervention in Libya, had earlier blocked agreement among the ambassadors, a NATO diplomat said.
Turkey on Sunday urged a review of NATO’s operational planning for Libya, saying the military intervention unleashed on the North African country had “changed the parameters,” diplomats said, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).
“The Turkish representative asked that we review the role that NATO might play in the implementation of UN Resolution 1973 on Libya in light notably of civilian losses that the ongoing bombings may cause,” a NATO diplomat told AFP.
Plans for both for the alliance to enforce the no-fly zone and to launch aerial patrols over Libya to prevent the government air force from attacking civilian targets will require a separate “execute directive” by the North Atlantic Council, which requires the consensus of all 28 alliance members. Diplomats say this could be issued on Tuesday at the earliest.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was in Mecca on Monday on the final day of a visit to Saudi Arabia, was due to chair a meeting later that day to discuss the situation in Libya. Officials from the Foreign Ministry, the General Staff and the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) were due to participate in the meeting which would be held upon Erdoğan’s return to Ankara after Today’s Zaman went into print.
In Brussels, NATO officials were to meet Monday to debate enforcement of the no-fly zone.
Constant meetings are being held in Ankara in order to assess the situation in Libya, diplomatic sources told the Anatolia news agency late on Sunday, underlining that “Turkey is not out of the process and is closely following every stage.”
The evacuation of Turkish citizens from Libya, establishing international legitimacy for any foreign intervention and the leadership of regional organizations in such an intervention are Turkey’s three priorities in dealing with the Libya issue, the same sources noted.
The sources spoke after a high-level meeting presided by Foreign Minister Davutoğlu. Deputy Chief of General Staff Gen. Aslan Güner, MİT Undersecretary Hakan Fidan and senior diplomats gathered at Davutoğlu’s official residence to discuss the operation launched on Libya.
Denying news reports which suggested that some 10,000 Turkish citizens were still in Libya, Davutoğlu said a few hundred citizens remained there for business purposes. There are preparations for their evacuation too, if needed, he said.