March 14, 2011
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan spoke to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to discuss ways to end Libya's crisis and suggested the colonel appoint a new political figure who has popular support to help find a solution.
Erdoğan, who opposes foreign military intervention in Libya, told Al-Arabiya television in an interview he expected Gaddafi to take positive steps in this direction. "I called Gaddafi three times and I said he should nominate someone picked by him who enjoys the support of the Libyan people," Erdoğan was quoted by Reuters. There were reports that he proposed Gaddafi appoint a president but officials at Erdoğan's office said he did not specify what title the new appointee should have. Gaddafi has been Libya's leader for four decades but does not carry the title of president.
Speaking about his proposal, Erdoğan said: "I requested that from him, and I spoke to his son."
Erdoğan also told the Arab TV network that Turkey wants a halt to the fighting by both sides in the east and west of Libya.
Erdoğan is strongly critical of foreign intervention in Libya, where forces loyal to Gaddafi are recapturing rebel holdouts. Addressing an international forum in İstanbul on Monday, Erdoğan reiterated his stance, saying any foreign intervention would be unhelpful and fraught with risk.
"Military intervention by NATO in Libya or any other country would be totally counter-productive," Erdoğan said during his speech at the opening ceremony of the Leaders of Change summit. "We have seen from other examples that foreign interventions, especially military interventions, only deepen the problem," Erdoğan, whose country is the only Muslim member of NATO, said, emphasizing the Libyan people should be able to decide on their own future.
Erdoğan called on the international community to "display solidarity" and "act together" to stop civil war and pave a way for a peaceful change in Libya and other countries, whose leaders face what the prime minister called a "demand for change" from their people.
Turkey, a rising diplomatic and economic power in the Middle East, which is touted as a model for post-revolution Arab nations with its vibrant economic and powerful diplomatic leverage, had projects worth more than $15 billion in Libya, mostly construction, and trade volume between them was about $2.4 billion last year.
Erdoğan's statement came two days after the Arab League asked the UN Security Council to impose a no-fly zone on Libya, giving a regional seal of approval NATO has said is vital for any military action.
NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen earlier said NATO is definitely discussing how to cope with violence in Libya, but he said the alliance has not drafted an operational plan for a military intervention.
Erdoğan said Turkey is a predominantly Muslim country with a century of democratic and parliamentary system experience and that the country has successfully proved to the world that Islam and democracy can coexist together. Erdoğan also slammed Western governments for remaining aloof to uprisings across the Arab world and added that the world must display the same eagerness in demanding democracy for Iraq in other Middle Eastern countries as well. Erdoğan also reiterated those who see oil when they look at the Middle East are in deep error and that they damage the feeling of justice.
Erdoğan claimed every leader should understand he cannot resist change, and those who don't heed the demands of their people will lose sooner or later.
Erdoğan also said the demand for change should not be suppressed with violence, adding that Turkey is closely monitoring changes in the region and has no aim to intervene but only recommend constructive and sincere criticisms.
Erdoğan was addressing a gathering of prominent international figures, academics, intellectuals and senior government officials at the Leaders of Change summit. The gathering on March 14-15 is aimed at discussing a recent wave of change around the world and Turkey's role, contribution and position amid this transformation. İstanbul University and Turkish Future Research Foundation (T▄GAV) are co-organizers of the summit.
Along with former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and former US Vice President Al Gore, many other important world leaders are in attendance at the two-day summit. Erdoğan had talks with a number of world leaders attending the two-day event, including Kosovo's prime minister, Hashim Thaci, Iraq's Vice Pesident Tariq al-Hashimi and member of presidential council of Bosnia and Herzegovina Bakir Izetbegovic.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu also spoke at a panel discussion and said Turkey must be a riveting leader amid what he calls a "political earthquake and tsunami" across the Middle East, adding that Turkey will otherwise be negatively affected. The foreign minister also noted no one should "delay the future" and that the advent of these sweeping changes must have come 20 years ago.
Davutoğlu called on leaders not to be concerned by the risk of political changes and instead consider the advantages of transformation and said Turkey's plans to deal with the post-transformation period. He said if change does not happen now, there will be a bigger explosion in the future.
Davutoğlu said Turkey has displayed self-confidence, which is the reason observers talk about the Turkish model today. The fundamental political goal of the changes, Davutoğlu said, should be security and freedom, which should be provided at the same time.
Stephen Kinzer, former New York Times correspondent in Turkey, said this is a moment of great change and stressed that no country in the world has increased its role in international affairs as dramatically as Turkey, adding that Turkey had no foreign policy at all a few years ago.
Kinzer said Turkey has been a junior partner for many years for the US and NATO and the reasons for this was an imminent security threat, which has evaporated. "This freed Turkey and allowed the country to follow a more independent foreign policy.
Kinzer said Turkey's influence is now welcomed in many places and that the example of Turkey is powerful among people in Arab streets. The expert said the Turkish experience dismissed notions that Islam is not compatible with democracy and capitalism. Kinzer noted Turkey has emerged at a time when there is a vacuum in the region for leadership and its foreign policy is based on conciliation, negotiation and ending confrontation.
Former US ambassador Ross Wilson also noted Turkey's success is "truly remarkable" and urged the US and Turkey to work together more in bringing about order and make sure that this region has both stability and democracy.