ISTANBUL, Mar 3: Foreign countries should refrain from military intervention in Libya as opponents of Muammar Gaddafi's rule do not want such interference, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu (pic) said on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had earlier ruled out any NATO role in Libya, where Gaddafi's brutal response to an uprising against his rule has led to fears over bloodshed and a humanitarian crisis. But Davutoğlu's remarks are the clearest expression of Turkish opposition to foreign military action in Libya, which came as the US sent two amphibious assault ships towards the North African country.
The two ships, the USS Kearsarge and the USS Ponce, entered the Suez Canal on Wednesday on the way to the Mediterranean and were expected to exit the canal later in the day. On Monday the USS Barry, a destroyer, moved through the Suez Canal and was now in the southwestern Mediterranean.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said the US administration is taking no options off the table, including military ones, as long as Libya's Gaddafi government continues to attack its own people.
Clinton has also said that the US and its NATO allies are still considering a "no-fly" zone over Libya. Davutoğlu, speaking to a group of journalists in İstanbul, said no Libyan opposition group is demanding foreign military intervention on their behalf.
“We are opposed to foreign intervention because Libyans are against it,” said the foreign minister.
Whether US statements and the movement of its warships in the Mediterranean are a sign of military action against Gaddafi is not clear. The repositioning of the US ships closer to Libya is, according to Western reports, seen as a symbolic show of force since neither the United States nor its NATO allies have shown any appetite for direct military intervention in the turmoil that has seen Gaddafi lose control of big swathes of the North African state.
Clinton herself, too, told a congressional hearing this week that the Libyan groups fighting Gaddafi oppose outside military intervention to help topple him because “they want this to have been their accomplishment. We respect that.”
Turkish observers say a foreign intervention could undermine the anti-Gaddafi forces by making their drive to topple Gaddafi look like a foreign plot.
On Wednesday, the Arab League stated the Arabs’ rejection of “any foreign military intervention in Libya” and stressed “the unity and integrity of Libyan soil.” Libyan leader Gaddafi said in a new speech again on Wednesday that Libyans would die in the thousands if the United States or other foreign powers enter Libya.
A possible military intervention in Libya is a difficult decision for Western powers, too, who acutely remember how the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 that toppled Saddam Hussein resulted.
No sanctions on Libyan people
Davutoğlu also clarified his government’s position on international sanctions on Libya, saying Turkey is opposed to those sanctions that could result in the punishment of the Libyan people, who are already facing enough hardships.
Prime Minister Erdoğan’s recent remarks rejecting sanctions against Libya have raised questions over the Turkish position towards sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council. “Libyans who face starvation and death will face more difficulties and desperation in the event of sanctions,” Erdoğan said, complaining that the
Middle East and Africa have been viewed by the West merely as sources of oil and used as pawns in oil wars for decades. “People take to the streets because they are fed up with being used as pawns in oil wars,” he said.