Saturday, April 09, 2011

Turkey: Turkey Has Peace Plan As Libya Contact Group Meets in Qatar

By Richard Johnson
Courtesy IDN-InDepth NewsAnalyis

ISTANBUL (IDN) - In run-up to the landmark first meeting of the Contact Group on Libya on April 13 in Doha, capital of Qatar, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has proposed a "roadmap" for a negotiated end to the conflict in the North African state, unleashed on February 15, 2011 by protests in the eastern city of Benghazi.

Erdogan's peace initiative is the latest in a series of moves proposed. But its merit lies in the fact that it comes from Turkey, "one of the countries that have enjoyed good relations with Libya for a number of years," observers say.

'The Tripoli Post' reported April 8 that the Turkish prime minister is urging forces aligned with Libyan president Muammar Al Gaddafi to withdraw from besieged cities, and calling for the establishment of humanitarian aid corridors.

Such passages, according to Erdogan, should be accompanied by a "comprehensive democratic transformation process that takes into account the legitimate interests of Libyan people."

That process should start "immediately" and Gaddafi should halt his attacks on cities and withdraw his forces, the Malta-based newspaper quoted Erdogan saying.

Erdogan's proposals followed after foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu received the new Libyan Foreign Minister Abdelati al-Obeidi in the Turkish capital Ankara on April 4.. Al-Obeidi succeeds Moussa Koussa, who has sought asylum in London.

While Al-Obeidi sought backing for a political settlement by negotiating a ceasefire with opposition forces in the country, his Turkish counterpart said the contacts were "at a very early stage."

Turkey has also had talks with representatives of the Libyan opposition and assured the Transitional Council in Benghazi that it supports their demands, following recent protests in Libya against Turkey by some opposition members.

Erdogan said he would table his proposals at the Doha Contact Group meeting set up to guide the international intervention in Libya.

"Turkey, is one of the first countries that expressed its desire to attend the meeting. Others include be representatives from Britain, the United States, the Arab League, and other allies from the Middle East," the Trpoli Post reports.

The forthcoming first meeting of the Contact Group on Libya was agreed at the London Conference on March 29, 2011, convened at British Foreign Secretary William Hague's initiative.

The conference discussed the situation in Libya with British allies and partners and took stock of the implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973, the latter calling for establishment of no fly zone in Libya with military means.

More than 40 Foreign Ministers and representatives from key regional organisations attended the London gathering. "It considered the humanitarian needs of the Libyan people and identified ways to support the people of Libya in their aspirations for a better future," a statement by the British Foreign Office said.

Participants included the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) Secretary General Dr Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu from Turkey, the Prime Minister of Qatar, Foreign Ministers from "key regional countries" including Iraq, Jordan, UAE, and Morocco, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Foreign Ministers from across Europe and NATO members, along with Secretary General Rasmussen.

Lebanon, Tunisia and the Arab League, though through Ambassador Hesham Yousse, were also represented.

A driving force at the London conference was Qatar's Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor Al Thani, who belongs to the ruling family led by Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani since June 1995.

Al Jazeera news channel based in Doha quoted Hague saying that "Qatar has agreed to convene the first meeting of the group as soon as possible". After the first meeting in Doha, the chairmanship will rotate between the countries of the region and beyond, Hague said.

At a news conference with Hague, the Qatari Prime Minister Al Thani urged Libya's President Muammar Gaddafi to step down to halt bloodshed and said that he might only have a few days to negotiate an exit.

"We urge Gaddafi and his people to leave," Al Thani told reporters. "I think this is the only solution to sort this problem as soon as possible. Right now we don't see any indication of that."

In what sounded like an ultimatum, Qatar's Prime Minister said: "But this hope which we offer now might not be on the table after a few days. I'm not warning anybody here, but I am trying to stop the bloodshed as soon as possible."

The African Union did not attend the London Conference. But French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said at a hearing in the French Senate on April 7 that he was now trying "to convince the African Union (to be) present" in Qatar.

The Contact Group is "responsible for political governance of the military intervention and the implementation of UN resolutions," Juppe added.

Western-led military intervention, backed by the March 17 UN resolution 1973, has been trying to implement a no-fly zone in Libya. However, prolonged conflicts between pro- and anti-government forces have made the humanitarian situation there worse as coalition forces intensified air strikes on Gaddafi's troops.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on April 6 voiced deep concern about the situation and called for immediate cessation of abuse of military force against civil population.

The importance of Erdogan's peace proposal also lies in the fact that Turkey initially opposed the idea of military action in Libya, but is now taking part in the enforcement of a no-fly zone to shield civilians.

It has also volunteered to lead humanitarian aid efforts and even arranged humanitarian medical aid vessels to ferry wounded out of the city of Misurata, which has been under attack from the regime's forces for weeks. It has also delivered supplies to Benghazi.