Turkey's PM wants quick end to Libya intervention

  • Mon Mar 21st 2011

Turkey wants the international military operation against Muammar Gaddafi's forces to be concluded as soon as possible so that Libyans can settle their own future, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan said on Monday.

Speaking in Mecca, on the final day of a visit to Saudi Arabia, Erdoğan said NATO member Turkey wanted several conditions to be met for the alliance to enter operations.

He also warned that military intervention should avoid ending in an occupation of the North African country, rich in oil and gas.

"Our biggest desire is for this operation to be finished as soon as possible," said Erdoğan, whose country is a rising diplomatic voice in the Middle East. The speech was broadcast live on Turkish television.

"Our biggest desire is for the Libyan people to determine their own future," he said while receiving an honorary university doctorate in Islam's holiest city.

"Now the issue is NATO going into operation. If NATO is going into operation we have some conditions," Erdoğan said.

"NATO should go in with the recognition and acknowledgement that Libya belongs to the Libyans, not for the distribution of its underground resources and wealth," he added.

Several NATO nations, led by France, Britain and the United States, have taken part in air attacks on Libya launched on Sunday.

But NATO as an organisation, which takes all decisions by consensus, has been divided on whether to take part.

Turkey has spoken against intervention in Libya and has called for an immediate ceasefire. Turkey earlier blocked alliance agreement on helping to enforce a no-fly zone.

"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. The opportunity must be created for Libyans to make their own decisions," Erdoğan said.

Envoys from the 28 NATO nations were due to meet later on Monday to agree how to implement an arms embargo, which would involve use of alliance aircraft and ships to prevent weapons reaching Gaddafi's forces.

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.

Turkey had business ties worth some $15.3 billion with Libya before the uprising against Gaddafi began a month ago, mostly in construction. In November last year, Erdogan accepted the Muammar Gaddafi human rights award.

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