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Turkey – U.S. reach initial consensus on Libya

Turkey as the ‘protecting power of the United States’ in Libya

‘Turkey has agreed to be our protecting power in Libya,’ Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman, told reporters today, referring to the new role Ankara will play serving US interests in Tripoli.

There were signs Turkey was effectively playing such a role when Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Monday that four New York Times reporters detained in Libya were released and handed over to Turkey’s embassy in Tripoli. Turkey had also successfully negotiated the release of a Guardian reporter detained in Libya.

Later on March 22, Monday, Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Selçuk Ünal stated that Turkey has officially assumed the diplomatic role for the United States, United Kingdom, Italy and Australia in Libya. The Turkish Embassy in Tripoli also started to serve as a consular contact point for the American, British, Italian and Australian nationals in Libya. A confirmation came from the U.S. diplomatic sources that Turkey is now a ‘protecting power’ for the United States in Libya.

Turkey presents 3 conditions for NATO support

Meanwhile the Turkish government re-asserts its position as ‘we will not point the gun at the Libyan people‘ and explicitly questions the long-term utility of a military strike. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has indicated that further Turkish support for the NATO operations in Libya would be based on 3 conditions:

1- NATO’s ultimate mission should be to prove that Libya belongs to the Libyan people, (in other words, should end with the full sovereignty of Libya)

2- Libya’s natural resources and their ownership rights should strictly remain in Libya, (no secret or interim petroleum extraction, refining and transportation agreements)

3- The operation should be concluded as swiftly as possible, without turning into de facto invasion.

Another criticism came today by Turkey’s Chief Negotiator to the European Union, Egemen Bağış, who argued that ”the leader of an EU member state is undertaking a military action against the international law”, in reference to the French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s offensive to Libya.

Admiral Stavridis’ Ankara visit

Turkish sources indicate that there is ‘no consensus yet’ between Turkey and the United States regarding what to do after the Operation Odyssey Dawn. However, these sources do agree that during the most recent Obama – Erdoğan phone meeting, invitation of Admiral James Stavridis, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe was decided in order to co-ordinate Turkey’s possible military efforts with the NATO operations. It is expected that Admiral Stavridis will inquire about the possibility of Turkey joining the arms embargo against Libya and establishment of a humanitarian mission. The Turkish Navy has 2 frigates close to Libya and 6 other ‘naval assets’ close to Crete. In the case of a Turkish decision to transfer the command of NATO assets in Turkey, several AWACS and tanker planes, in addition to several F-16 fighter escorts that will ‘under no circumstances engage in offensive operations’, will be prepared for duty in the Konya military airbase. Sources indicate that the Turkish navy can commit ‘slightly more naval assets’ solely for humanitarian and defensive purposes, if Turkey reaches an agreement with Admiral Stavridis.

Update as of March 23, Wednesday – 10.30 a.m. EDT: Turkey has agreed to send 5 frigates (one as a substitute) and 1 submarine to the NATO naval force in Libya. It is understood that the Turkish naval presence will primarily enforce the arms embargo and perform naval policing duties.

Turkey - U.S. reach initial consensus on Libya



Akin Unver

Dr. Ünver is an assistant professor of international relations at Kadir Has University, Istanbul.

Previously he was the Ertegün Lecturer of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, Near Eastern Studies department - the only academic to retain this prestigious fellowship for two consecutive years. He conducted his joint post-doctoral studies at the University of Michigan’s Center for European Studies and the Center for the Middle East and North African Studies, where he authored several articles on Turkish politics, most notable of which is ”Turkey’s deep-state and the Ergenekon conundrum”, published by the Middle East Institute.

Born and raised in Ankara, Turkey, he graduated from T.E.D. Ankara College in 1999 and earned his B.A. in International Relations from Bilkent University (2003) and MSc in European Studies from the Middle East Technical University (2005). He received his PhD from the Department of Government, University of Essex, where his dissertation, ‘A comparative analysis of the discourses on the Kurdish question in the European Parliament, US Congress and Turkish National Assembly‘ has won the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) 2010 Malcolm H. Kerr Dissertation Award in Social Sciences.

Akın also assumed entry-level policy positions at the European Union Secretariat-General, Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Eurasian Center for Strategic Studies (ASAM) and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (D.C.), as well as teaching positions at the University of Essex (Theories of International Relations) and Sabancı University (Turkey and the Middle East).

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