Erdoğan: NATO’s Libya move must not be for its wealth

  • Tue Mar 22nd 2011

Turkey said on Sunday that it wanted several conditions to be met for NATO to begin operations in Libya and warned that military intervention should avoid ending in an occupation of the North African country, rich in oil and gas.

“Now the issue is NATO going into operation. If NATO is going into operation we have some conditions,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said at a university in Riyadh. “NATO should go in [Libya] with the recognition and acknowledgement that Libya belongs to the Libyans, not for the distribution of its underground resources and wealth,” he added.

Erdoğan was speaking at Umm Al-Qura University in Mecca on the final day of a visit to Saudi Arabia. The Turkish prime minister also urged the coalition forces to conclude the international military operation against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s forces as soon as possible so that Libyans can settle their own future. “Our biggest desire is for this operation to be finished as soon as possible,” Erdoğan said. “Our biggest desire is for the Libyan people to determine their own future,” he added, while receiving an honorary university doctorate in Islam’s holiest city.

Several NATO nations, led by France, Britain and the United States, took part in air attacks on Libya launched on Sunday. But NATO as an organization, which takes all decisions by consensus, has been divided on whether to take part.

“Our Libyan brothers possess every means to build a strong, stable, peaceful future. The Libyan people should be given this opportunity before the operation turns into an occupation,” Erdoğan said. “The opportunity must be created for Libyans to make their own decisions.”

Erdoğan was due to chair a meeting in Ankara later on Monday to discuss the situation in Libya with Turkish ministers and military commanders, diplomatic sources said, Reuters reported. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu also said on Monday that Erdoğan also planned to speak with US President Barack Obama about the Libyan crisis.

The Turkish prime minister said during his speech in Mecca that he had spoken with Gaddafi three times during the crisis, once with his son and twice with the country’s prime minister and that he is one of the few world leaders to keep talking with the Libyan leader, although he has called for Gaddafi to hand power to someone with greater legitimacy. Erdoğan said NATO’s only

Muslim member nation has held an “intense diplomacy” to stave off the brewing crisis, and had talks with opposition members. “Sadly, our warnings were not listened to, promises were not kept. First came massacre followed by an international operation,” Erdoğan lamented. Turkey had business ties amounting to some $15.3 billion with Libya before the uprising against Gaddafi began a month ago, mostly in construction. Erdoğan also had talks with Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Secretary-General Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu on Monday and discussed regional developments, particularly the operation against Libya. İhsanoğlu told the Anatolia news agency following the meeting that his talks with Erdoğan including regional problems, the Libyan crisis and OIC-Turkey relations. İhsanoğlu also added that he briefed the Turkish prime minister on the OIC’s initiative regarding Libya.

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