Libya, Turkey promise to further bilateral relations

December 07, 2012, Friday/ 16:49:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

Turkey, which supported a revolution in Libya that toppled Muammar Gaddafi's four-decade rule, will continue to stand by the country as it restructures its economy, political order and security apparatus, President Abdullah Gül said on Friday.

Speaking at a joint news conference with Libya's interim leader, Mohamed Yousef el-Magariaf, in Ankara on Friday, Gül noted that Turkey backed the Libyan revolution, recalling that the Turkish military participated in an international operation supporting the anti-Gaddafi forces in late 2011.

Gül said that Turkey's cooperation with Libya is ongoing in order to help rebuild -- among other things -- the security forces, including the police and military, of the war-torn country.

Magariaf, confirming Gül's statements, claimed that there are deep historic relations between Libya and Turkey, “which brings the relations between Libyan and Turkish people to a special level.” During the conference, the two leaders also noted that preparations for a free trade agreement between the countries are ongoing.

Bilateral trade between Libya and Turkey amounted to $2.5 billion at the end of 2012, with the capacity to increase further in the next year.

Magariaf, the president of General National Congress of Libya, came to Turkey at the invitation of President Gül. He had talks with Gül on Friday prior to their joint news conference. Magariaf also had talks with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek separately later in the day.

Gül received Magariaf at Çankaya presidential palace with an official ceremony, which was also attended by Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek, Presidential Office Secretary-General Mustafa İsen and other Turkish officials.

After the playing of the national anthems of both countries along with the firing of a 21-gun salute, Magariaf saluted the troops in the ceremony, saying “Merhaba asker” (Hello soldiers) in Turkish.

Turkey, NATO's only Muslim member state, supported the Libyan armed opposition during its attempt to topple the decades-old dictatorship of Gaddafi.

The seeds of Turkey's friendly ties with Libya were laid during a US arms embargo following Turkey's intervention in Cyprus in 1974, when Libya provided Turkey with spare parts to operate US-made jets. Since then, Turkish builders have become a mainstay of foreign business in Libya, despite an influx by the Chinese, the Russians and others later on.

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