Global General

Turkey seeks to mediate for truce in Libya

Updated: 2011-04-05 10:41
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ANKARA - Turkey is seeking to broker a truce deal between Libyan regime and rebels as it engages in talks with envoys from both parties.

Libyan acting Foreign Minister Abdulati Obeidi arrived in Ankara on Monday as an envoy for Muammar Gaddafi's government and met Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu late in the day.

"Today's meeting with the Libya government official is very important. Turkey will continue to do its best to end the sufferings and to contribute to the process of making a road map including political demands of Libyan people," Davutoglu told reporters Monday.

He said Ankara was also in contact with the opposition Interim Transitional National Council (ITNC), based in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, adding that opposition representatives were also expected in Ankara soon.

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A Turkish Foreign Ministry official said both sides have told Ankara that they have certain opinions about a possible cease-fire.

"We will talk to both sides in order to understand whether there is any common ground," said the official.

Obeidi held talks with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou in Athens on Sunday before traveling to Ankara. The Libyan government is seeking a solution to the country's crisis, Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas said Sunday evening after their meeting.

ITNC Chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil said last week the opposition forces would agree to a cease-fire if Gaddafi withdrew his forces from all of Libyan cities and respected the rights of Libyans to choose sides.

The Libyan government rejected the opposition's cease-fire proposal, saying it was "crazy" and lacked sincerity.

Obeidi's trip to Turkey coincided with the visit of NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who met with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Davutoglu.

The entire NATO action in Libya was carried out with coordination with Turkey and the meeting with Rasmussen had especially focused on Turkey's humanitarian efforts in Libya, Davutoglu stated.

The NATO chief and Erdogan exchanged views about ways to secure a cease-fire in Libya, a Prime Ministry official said.

"They agreed on a stance that would bring forward respect to the will of Libyan people," the official said.

In the early stages of the Libyan turmoil, Erdogan had suggested Gaddafi hand over power to an elected leader or authority.

The only Islamic country in NATO, Turkey has repeatedly voiced its opposition since the West-led airstrikes began. However, after days of negotiation, all NATO member states, including Turkey, agreed to take over command of the military operations against Libya.

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and Foreign Minister Davutoglu nevertheless stressed on several occasions that the NATO operations should be limited to protecting civilians and that Turkey would never point a gun at Libya.

Turkey also underscored its priority on protecting civilians and extending humanitarian aid to Libya. A Turkish ferryboat is heading back to Turkey carrying 475 people, including 250 injured, transferred from Misrata and Benghazi, said Davutoglu on Monday.

Ankara had contacted both the Libyan government and opposition forces to ensure a temporary cease-fire at the Misrata port in order to enable the ferryboat to dock, he added.

Turkey has economic interests in Libya alongside strong historical ties with the country, which was once part of the Ottoman Empire prior to World War I.

Turkey has been seeking a leadership role in the Muslim world and raising its profile in the Arab world. Ankara has mediated between regional foes Syria and Israel and tried to broker a deal to defuse the Iranian nuclear crisis.