When asked during the Jeddah Economic Forum in Saudi Arabia whether Gadhafi should step down, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said: "He has already gone through that phase. Actually, he should have handed over Libya to someone else... I held phone conversations with both him [Gadafi] and his son on March 1 and called on him to respect the will of the Libyan people. But we failed."

Responding to the comment that "a new Ottoman empire is on the way," Erdoğan said, "We do not have such an intention. The news and comments about it are purely speculation."


NATO convened in Brussels after the beginning of the UN-sponsored air strike against Libya. During the meeting, the Turkish representative said that NATO should review its plans and narrow the no-fly zone in a bid to reduce civilian casualties to the minimum. While the U.S. said the operation should be carried on under the umbrella of NATO, France objected to NATO's taking over the operation. Since unanimity is required to make a decision, the allied countries are trying to persuade Turkey and France.


Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu held a meeting with Deputy Chief of General Staff Aslan Güner and National Intelligence Organization Undersecretary Hakan Fidan to discuss Libya.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will hold a summit on Libya on Monday, officials said.


Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said that Turkey was not involved in the international effort against Libya.

"We wish that the United Nations had made such resolutions and countries had taken action in the face of incidents in Gaza, Palestine and the other regions," he said.


The leader of the main opposition party has expressed support for the international air operation in Libya while calling on the North African country to move toward a more democratic regime.

"No administration should exert pressure on its own people and shoot them. If the United Nations has passed such a resolution, then this operation has gained international legitimacy," Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the Republican People's Party (CHP), told reporters Sunday.

"What we want is for this operation to be conducted without human casualties," Kılıçdaroğlu said, adding that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's resistance makes that impossible.

"We are making a call to Gadhafi: Libya should rapidly move forward to a democratic regime. It should make statements in this direction," he said, adding that the Turkish government's softening stance on military intervention is "not wrong" in this framework.

Yaşar Topçu, leader of the ultranationalist Great Union Party (BBP), has meanwhile urged the government not to allow the international coalition forces to use Turkey's İncirlik air base to attack Libya.


The Libyan operation, taking place under the leadership of France and the United States, is getting bigger. A meeting in Brussels on Sunday focused on how NATO could participate in a military operation against Libya. Turkey may be assigned a surveillance role and assume [some] responsibility in air and sea in attacks against Libya.


Turkey's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said that NATO-member Turkey would make the necessary and appropriate national contributions to implement a UN no-fly zone over Libya and measures to protect civilians.

In a late-night statement, the Foreign Ministry said that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and British Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs William Jefferson Hague phoned Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to give information about Saturday's meeting in Paris regarding Libya.

"During the telephone conversations," Davutoglu said "Turkey had indicated from the very beginning that the [official] reaction should be against attack on civilians in Libya on the grounds of international legitimacy and by seeking regional support." He also said that the main objective of the operation should be putting an immediate end to violence against civilians and killing of innocents.

"Turkey will make the necessary and appropriate national contribution to implementing a UN no-fly zone over Libya and measures to protect civilians. Within that framework, the necessary preparations are being made by civil and military authorities in co-ordination," Davutoglu said.

The U.S., the United Kingdom and France have launched air strikes against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's forces to enforce a UN-mandated no-fly zone. U.S. and British forces fired more than 110 missiles, while French planes struck pro-Gaddafi forces attacking opposition-held Benghazi.


Turkey is changing its tune on intervention in Libya, saying it will make the necessary contributions to the no-fly zone it previously opposed amid hints that it might participate in a possible NATO operation to stop the crisis in the North African country. "Libyan leader Gadhafi had been 'warned... to respect his people's will,'" Turkey's prime minister said.

Turkey is quietly trying to shift its position on intervention in Libya, which it previously opposed, suggesting that it approves of a NATO plan that includes both military and political measures.

The move brings Turkey closer to the international community, which initiated air strikes over the weekend on the North African country, ostensibly to protect civilians from being targeted by embattled leader Moammar Gadhafi.

"Gadhafi should have stepped down a long time ago," Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Sunday, adding that "Turkey cannot remain indifferent to the developments in Libya." He said he had urged the Libyan leader to appoint a president with popular support in an effort to end the crisis in his country.

"He has already passed that period, he is contradicting himself," Erdoğan said in Jeddah. "I had warned Gadhafi to respect his people's will."

The shift in Turkey's position in favor of the Western-led military operation was announced by the Foreign Ministry late Saturday in a written statement. It said Turkey would make the necessary and appropriate national contribution to implementing a U.N. no-fly zone over Libya and measures to protect civilians.

"Within that framework the necessary preparations and studies are being made in coordination with civil and military authorities," the ministry said, without specifying how Turkey would contribute.

NATO was meeting in an emergency session as the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review went to press late Sunday. Led by Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the discussions focused on the implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution No. 1973 establishing a no-fly zone over Libya.

Three criteria for action

Any decision made by NATO would require unanimity and the vote cast by Turkey would show whether it has warmed to the idea of a NATO operation in Libya. A Western diplomat told the Daily News that the meeting was no surprise but emphasized that "planning does not necessarily mean action."

The diplomat, who wished to remain anonymous, said three principles had been adopted: "One is to provide a legal basis for a no-fly zone and that was secured by the U.N. Security Council resolution. The second is a clear and demonstrable need for the protection of civilians. The final is to obtain regional support and we received the Arab League's support for a no-fly zone."

"I do not think that Turkey will oppose NATO's decision. Turkey should have already announced its stance with regard to the implementation of the U.N. Security Council resolution," Çağrı Erhan, a professor of international relations at Ankara University, told the private channel NTV on Sunday.

"Turkey's policy has to be in line with its ambitions of becoming a regional leader. If Turkey had treated Gadhafi in a similar way as it did former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, perhaps we would be in a different point now," he said.

Turkey could take part

Recent events seem to indicate a softening of the Turkish stance compared to two weeks ago, when Erdoğan asked: "What business does NATO have in Libya?"

Turkey, one of the 28 members of NATO, is being represented at the alliance's meetings and will be involved in the military planning in Libya, but it remains unclear how it would contribute to a NATO-led operation or if its role would be limited to providing logistics only. Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said Sunday that Turkey would not be involved in any military operation in Libya.

However, Turkey could take the stage, without occupying the frontlines, with a potential NATO decision to contribute to the international coalition's military intervention in Libya. The actions it could take include participating in the command and control mechanisms under the NATO umbrella, taking part in potential humanitarian-assistance programs or sending a few warships to participate in a NATO mission to blockade the shipment of weapons to Libya.

Turkey had expressed reservations about a no-fly zone, but after the U.N. Security Council decision authorizing military action, Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said the resolution was binding on all countries. They urged Gadhafi to implement a cease-fire immediately.

"There has been no shift in our position," a senior Foreign Ministry diplomat told the Daily News. "We have expressed our opposition to a military intervention since the very beginning and today we say the same."

The situation in Libya has reached a dimension not desired by Turkey, Erdoğan said in a televised speech in Jeddah.

"We respect each country's territorial integrity in our region," he said. "We hope the military intervention will come to an end as soon as possible and Libya will regain stability."

Turkey not involved in Paris meeting

The air strikes in Libya followed a meeting over the weekend in Paris of Western and Arab leaders backing the intervention. French President Nicolas Sarkozy said participants had agreed to use "all necessary means, especially military," to enforce the Security Council resolution.

Turkey was not present in the Paris meeting but was informed about its content as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and British Foreign Secretary William Hague called Davutoğlu after the meeting, diplomatic sources said.

"We were not involved in the Paris meeting as it was within the framework of the EU, the U.S. and the Arab League. We were not invited and it is a different matter if we were ever invited but I personally think Sarkozy is trying to take a leading role," a Foreign Ministry diplomat said.

Sarkozy strongly opposes Turkey's membership in the European Union.

Diplomatic efforts continue

At this stage, Turkey is prioritizing diplomatic contacts with both Western powers as well as the Libyan opposition front. Ankara took a cautious approach to Gadhafi's proposal to invite international observers, including some from Turkey, to monitor the cease-fire over Libya. Turkish diplomatic sources, however, said there first must be a cease-fire to monitor.

"What matters for us is ending the bloodshed. Gadhafi is inviting international monitors. Did he establish a cease-fire that can be monitored?" asked one diplomat.

Turkey opposes a land operation into Libya in clear terms; the U.N. Security Council resolution already rules out such an operation.


Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was "the most powerful politician" in Turkey and was the "key" to influencing his newly elected administration and Turkish public opinion in line with U.S. interests, according to a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable released Sunday.

The cable, which was released by WikiLeaks' Turkish partner, the Daily Taraf, was penned by then-Ambassador to Turkey W. Robert Pearson on December 4, 2002, six days before Erdoğan visited then-President George W. Bush and then-Secretary of State Colin Powell at the White House.

Because of a political ban, Erdoğan had not been able to assume the prime minister's seat at the time even though his Justice and Development Party (AKP) had recently won elections; nonetheless, Pearson recommended that U.S. officials treat Erdoğan as Turkey's head of government.

Pearson said Erdoğan had to be convinced of "forcing then-Turkish Cyprus President Rauf Denktaş into a solution on the Cyprus issue as quickly as possible," as well as be persuaded of the benefits Turkey would receive if it fully supported forces that would invade Iraq a few months after the cable was written.

The cable also said U.S. support for Turkey's European Union membership must be made clear to Erdoğan and that he must be informed of the importance of economic reforms and the struggle against corruption.

Despite his importance, Pearson warned that "the Kemalist state" was trying to resist his rise to power and added that "the deep state," an alleged shadow organization of the bureaucracy and military within the state whose existence has been speculated by many people but whose exact definition has never been made, would try to block his path through "legal maneuvers or provocations."

Pearson defined Erdoğan as charismatic and sympathetic, noting that the latter quality was rarely seen among Turkish politicians.

The envoy further said Erdoğan had a high opinion of himself and was a very proud man. Pearson also noted that whenever Erdoğan felt he did not receive the respect he believed he deserved, his pride and his self-image became easily hurt. As such, the ambassador said Erdoğan "does not respond well to criticism."

However, Pearson said the future prime minister could take a joke and was not completely intolerant to discussion. Moreover, Erdoğan would often voice what he wanted in a soft and brief manner before becoming more vociferous in the event that he encountered an objection.

Erdoğan did not respond well to the implication of threats, Pearson said. "The best way to convince him in a calm and man-to-man manner to make a hard decision is to convince him that he is holding the fate of the country in his hands as the leader of Turkey."

Pearson also noted the possibility that the AKP might have internal problems and could split within the year – an event that ultimately did not come to pass. Pearson also wondered whether the AKP had "the talent pool" to assign the right civil servants to the right positions.


The Turkish Ambassador in Washington D.C. replied to an editorial published by the New York Times this past week concerning the arrests of journalists in Turkey.

Namik Tan said in its letter to the Times, "according to the prosecutor of the case, the defendants are charged with crimes unrelated to their professional functions as journalists. What's more, their prosecution is governed by principles and practices that define every true democracy."

"Turkey's judicial system is integrated with European legal structures. Those charged are presumed innocent until proven guilty, empowered to defend themselves fully and accorded due process. Eventually, they have the right to appeal at the European Court of Human Rights. These and other safeguards for civil rights are enshrined in our law and observed diligently by every part of Turkey's legal system," he wrote.

"We are fully aware that freedoms of the press and expression are fundamental to a true democracy. We do not shy away from taking additional steps to further strengthen the existing safeguards if need be."

"As you and many others acknowledge, Turkish society has changed for the better in the last decade, and we are determined to keep this momentum. That said, we call for prudence in making hasty judgments about a pending court case," he wrote.

The New York Times published an editorial on March 12 following arrests of journalists Nedim Sener and Ahmet Sik over alleged plot plans.


Thousands of people took to the streets of the Turkish capital on Saturday to call for freeing several journalists who have been jailed during an inquiry into an alleged plot against the country's Islamist-rooted government.

Several journalists have been detained since the probe into the so-called Ergenekon network, together with senior military officers and major criminals. Journalists' organizations say that 68 members of their profession are behind bars, but the government says the figure is 27 and none are being held for doing their job.

The inquiry has been attacked by secularists as a maneuver to muzzle opposition to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government and speed up the Islamization of Turkey.

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