Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu visited Libyans receiving treatment at a public hospital in Urla in the Aegean city of İzmir, emphasizing that Libyans were welcome to stay in Turkey as long as they wanted.
The Ankara ferry-turned-hospital brought many Libyans, 321 wounded and 108 others accompanying them, to the port of Çeşme in İzmir last Tuesday after picking them up from the besieged Libyan city of Misrata and the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. The boat, which carried medical supplies to Libya, also returned with dozens of foreigners and Turks who were stranded in Libya.
Davutoğlu’s visit on Saturday to Urla State Hospital, which is currently treating 52 Libyans, was closed to the press. He later visited those accompanying the patients, who are staying at a nearby Ministry of Health social training center.
During his visit to the hospital, Davutoğlu showed an active interest in the patients, interacting with many of them and calling Libya from his personal cell phone so that they could speak with their families back home, the Anatolia news agency reported, citing anonymous sources. He spoke with the patients in Arabic. Speaking to reporters following the visit, Davutoğlu said President Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said “Hello” to the Libyans and that he conveyed this to them.
The Ankara’s trip was funded by the Turkish government, while the Turkish Red Crescent Society (Kızılay) and the Humanitarian Aid Foundation (İHH) provided staff and supplies.
The İHH, whose Gaza-bound ship was stormed by Israeli security forces in a deadly raid last year, meanwhile announced last week that it was this week prepared to send an aid ship to Misrata.
The ship will carry food, powdered milk, infant formula and medicines. It deployed dozens of activists, including doctors, just two days after the Libyan uprising broke out in February and established a tent city and soup kitchen at the border crossing with Tunisia.
The İHH said its activities in Libya are being carried out in coordination with Turkish diplomatic missions there, as well as Tunisia’s Red Crescent, the Muslim equivalent of the Red Cross, and other aid groups, The Associated Press reported on Friday.