Turkey slams Libya strikes

2011-03-22 14:25

Ankara – Turkey today slammed Western-led air strikes on Libya as potentially counter-productive and ruled out any combat mission in the conflict-torn country.

“We have seen in the past that such operations are of no use and that on the contrary, they increase loss of life, transform into occupation and seriously harm the countries’ unity,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech to his Islamist-rooted party in parliament.

“Naturally, we will question the Paris meeting, naturally we will criticise it,” he said, referring to Saturday’s summit which preceded the strikes, with France making the first air strikes.

Turkey, Nato’s sole predominantly Muslim member and a key regional player, “will never point a gun at the Libyan people,” he said, adding that Ankara’s position would be explained to Nato allies at a meeting in Brussels tomorrow.

Erdogan stressed the UN should serve as “an umbrella for operations with solely humanitarian purposes” and that Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973 on Libya should “be interpreted within this framework”.

In further remarks published today, Erdogan said Turkey was willing to be involved in the distribution of humanitarian aid in Libya, to manage Benghazi airport and to deploy naval forces to “control” the area between Benghazi and the Greek island of Crete.

“We do not want Libya to become a second Iraq. A civilization in Iraq collapsed within eight years. More than a million people were killed there,” the Hurriyet daily quoted him as telling reporters yesterday on a flight back from a visit to Saudi Arabia.

“We will not participate with our fighting forces. It is impossible for us to think that our fighters drop bombs over Libyan people,” he said.

Erdogan discussed the situation in Libya with US President Barack Obama in a telephone call late yesterday following a meeting with key ministers and military commanders. He did not give details on the talks.

France’s leadership in the strikes has particularly irked Ankara, adding chill to bilateral ties, already strained over President Nicolas Sarkozy’s vocal opposition to Turkey’s EU membership bid.

At a meeting in Brussels on Sunday, Turkey effectively delayed a Nato decision on possible action in Libya as it called for a review of existing plans and stressed that civilians must be protected.

The raids on Libya “created a new situation that went beyond preparations that Nato had previously made,” Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said yesterday.

Turkey wants clarification “about principles, about how operations under UN leadership should be carried out and how consultations should take place within Nato,” he said.

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