Turkey’s cease-fire priority in Libya gaining currency in NATO

April 19, 2011, Tuesday/ 17:51:00

Turkey’s firm idea that the maintenance of a cease-fire is essential for a healthy transition period in Libya is gaining currency among members of the international community, although there is still a division among NATO members on ways to intensify the air campaign in Libya.

On April 7, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan proposed a roadmap for peace in Libya, urging Gaddafi forces to withdraw from besieged cities, the establishment of aid corridors and democratic change. The three-point plan was discussed in Doha, Qatar, at a meeting of an international Libya contact group last week as well as at subsequent meetings in Cairo and Berlin.

“We have been in the process of fleshing out this roadmap. The roadmap has been positively referred to at the sequenced meetings in Doha, Cairo and Berlin. While we did not participate in the Cairo meeting, where we were not represented, [EU Foreign Policy Chief] Baroness [Catherine] Ashton directly referred to Turkey’s roadmap and brought it to the meeting’s agenda. It was eventually seen that some elements of the roadmap are extremely appropriate,” a senior Turkish diplomat told Today’s Zaman on Monday.

“Those who became aware of the prudence of the essentials of Turkey’s roadmap have welcomed the roadmap. Norway, for example, voiced praise for the roadmap both with regard to its thematic content and with regard to concrete elements within the roadmap because it was able to look at the issue from a distance. Without maintaining a cease-fire, how can you force Gaddafi to leave his seat? As seen, Gaddafi forces are firmly continuing attacks. This question and approach, which have been firmly put forward by Turkey, was also voiced by Norway at the latest NATO meeting,” the diplomat, speaking under the customary condition of anonymity, said.

When reminded of the fact that Libyan rebels have so far appeared bent on rejecting any talks with Gaddafi so as to pave the way for a cease-fire, the diplomat briefly said Turkey -- the only country represented in both the rebels’ headquarters, Benghazi, and the capital, Tripoli, and a country that has long been influential in Libya -- is still in contact with the opposition in a bid to work out the details of the roadmap.

“There is no concrete -- positive or negative -- response from the government, and the opposition does not entirely rule out the idea of maintaining a cease-fire,” the diplomat said.

Ankara has earlier said it had the impression that the plan was actually received positively by both the Gaddafi camp and the rebels, while reminding of the existence of different camps among the rebels that might have conflicting views about Turkey’s roadmap.

On the other hand, well-informed sources pointed to the fact that, on the ground, the rebels, while publicly rejecting cease-fire talks, are not able to get the upper hand in clashes.

Last Friday, US, French and British leaders published a joint opinion piece in several newspapers in which they said a future with Gaddafi in power was unthinkable. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who also agrees with the viewpoint often expressed by Turkey, that Libya’s civil war cannot be resolved by force alone, reacted to the letter at a press conference on Friday afternoon.

“The International Criminal Court [ICC] is rightly investigating the crimes committed against civilians and the grievous violations of international law,” the article also said. This line, which in a way says Gaddafi, while leaving Libya, should be ready to be pursued for war crimes, is likely seen as an inappropriate move by Ankara since it considers the court decision a setback to reconciliation efforts.

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