“Turkey has an impressive leadership, a great deal of economic growth and very active diplomacy. It’s all good. I’d like them to use the weight Turkey has as a force to help the [Paris] resolution, which is in line with the UN resolution protecting the population, stop the bloodshed first and then help some kind of a political settlement toward democratic change in Libya,” said Lellouche on March 25 answering questions from Today’s Zaman following his address at the Galatasaray University in İstanbul.
“I hope the Turkish government will help us and the rest of the international community because they have a very strong influence in Libya: They have a strong presence; they have done a lot in Libya; and they will do a lot in the future when the country will be reconstructed. But before we get to peacetime, we must stop the bloodshed, [and] make sure the population is not punished,” he added.
Turkey has supported the Arab League’s call for a no-fly zone decision and wants Libyan people’s demands for change to be met but Turkish leaders had initially expressed opposition to foreign military intervention, particularly an intervention by NATO, in Libya, arguing that military solutions would not help Libya solve its problems.
Meanwhile, European and American officials said on March 25 that NATO’s governing board reached a “political agreement” for NATO to assume full control in Libya. Senior administration officials said the agreement came in a four-way telephone call with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Turkey.
Regarding Turkey’s recent support for NATO’s role, Lellouche said that the reason why they wanted to keep NATO out of the front line at the beginning was not because of any anti-NATO rhetoric.
“As a matter of fact, we said that there should be an integrated command, but precisely in this particular case we did not want this to look as if this is an intervention of the West against the Muslim world,” he said. “It is somewhat ironic that Turkey is the country that is asking NATO back into the game.”
At an emergency meeting on March 19 in Paris, leaders from the Western and some Arab countries decided to carry out all necessary measures to enforce a UN resolution authorizing a no-fly zone over Libya.
“I understand that there are a lot of hurt feelings here in Turkey about this meeting in Paris,” Lellouche said referring to criticisms in Turkey that Ankara was not invited to that meeting.
“Like-minded countries gathered in Paris to implement a resolution,” he added.
“There are now arguments that whether or not it was the right policy. But the sense of urgency was there; a threat to a lot of civilians was there. I’ve heard no one challenging the fact that there was an urgent danger to civilians,” he also said and asked: “What do you do when the entire population of a city is threatened by its own army threatening to kill it? Just sit there and ignore it?”