Worldbulletin News

Worldbulletin News Worldbulletin News Portal

09:04, 22 May 2018 Tuesday
17:24, 12 April 2011 Tuesday

  • Share
What is Turkey\'s position on Libya?
What is Turkey\'s position on Libya?

Up to now, we talked about the successful Turkish foreign policy and “role model” debates about Turkey for the Middle East in our analyses. But this picture has changed after the rebellions in Libya and Syria to some extent.


By İsmail Duman, World Bulletin

In these days, Turkey is in trouble with political concepts and their practical cases about Libya. Up to now, we talked about the successful Turkish foreign policy and "role model" debates about Turkey for the Middle East in our analyses. But this picture has changed after the rebellions in Libya and Syria to some extent.

In this analysis, we want to focus on Libya case and inversion in Turkey's foreign policy attitude concerning the developments in Libya. What were the roots of Turkey's first attitude on Libya and what are the reasons that Turkey backs joining NATO operation in Libya? Is it the fight between "reel politics" and "moral politics" or is there any different background in this political inversion of Turkey?

Turkey: opposes to any operation in Libya...

As is known, when an operation to Libya has become a current issue, Turkey, firstly, opposed to any operation against Libya and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan asked, "What business does NATO have in Libya?"

In addition to this statement, as Akin Unver says, "Military intervention by NATO in Libya or any other country would be totally counter-productive," Erdogan, had told an international forum in Istanbul, adding "In addition to being counter-productive, such an operation could have dangerous consequences". "We are opposed to foreign intervention because Libyans are against it," followed Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu.

On the other hand, Turkey criticized the Western position on Libya at governmental level: "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." In other words, "Turkey interpreted NATO's quest for military intervention as an opportunity for great powers - France in particular - to regain their influence in North Africa." Additionally, Erdogan called on the international community and Western countries to approach the Libyan issue from a humanitarian perspective, not on the basis of oil interests (Anadolu Agency, February 27).

Many criticisms followed these statements in the Western media because while Turkey was supporting Egyptian protesters; today, it is acting very independent from its foreign policy rationale in Libya. "Turkey's policy has to be in line with its ambitions of becoming a regional leader. If Turkey had treated Gadhafi in a similar way as it did [former Egyptian President] Hosni Mubarak, perhaps we would be in a different point now," said Cagrı Erhan, a professor of international relations at Ankara University.

Moreover, "This response to the Libyan uprising stands in sharp contrast with Turkey's strong condemnation of Hosni Mubarak during the Egyptian uprising last month, and embrace of the Tunisian Revolution in January as a model for the region." said Nader Habibi and Joshua W. Walker and they added: "Turkey has justified its stand by arguing that sanctions will hurt the Libyan people, and that no one in Libya wants military intervention."

"Turkey seemed to be riding high as a wave of protests swept from Tunisia to Egypt to a half dozen other states in the Middle East and North Africa. After a few days of uncomfortable silence as protests were met with violence in Egypt, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan called on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to heed the will of his people and, using language meant to underline Turkey's role as a regional leader, spoke in explicitly religious language to do so." said Howard Eissenstat: "Libya, however, has proved to be a challenge and highlights some of the limitations of Turkish foreign policy."

While "Libya might be just such a miscalculation. Turkey's muted reaction to the unfolding events in Libya, and notably its opposition to taking action against Colonel Qaddafi's regime was initially explained with the massive evacuation efforts that were being implemented, and which are by now completed." commented Joshua W. Walker; Today's Zaman's Yusuf Ergen mentioned Turkey's "ability to say 'No'" referring to "March 1" case and he focused on Libya case: "Turkey's rejections center on four points: a) Not turning Libya into Iraq, making sure the process does not result in occupation; b) Keeping the intervention limited, making sure civilians are not killed in Libya; c) Making sure the operation does not create the perception that foreign powers want to divide Libya's resources; and d) Keeping regional sensitivities in mind."

While Joshua W. Walker evaluated Turkey's first opposing attitude against any operation to Libya so: "Turkey's position on Libya is basically rooted in its large investments in the country and close personal contacts between its leaders. In addition to the well-publicized "human rights" award that Erdogan received from Qaddafi in December 2010, there are more pressing national economic interests at play. Over the past ten years Turkey has won almost all lucrative construction contracts in Libya and consequently as many as 30,000 Turkish citizens were working and doing business in Libya at the time of the uprisings.", as Alina Lehtinen says, Sabri Saryari of Sabanci University agreed that "economic factors likely played a role in Turkey's policy towards Libya. However, he added, the idea of a Western coalition conducting military operations in a Muslim country has never been appealing to the ruling Justice and Development Party(AKP), which has its roots in political Islam."

"The equation which needs to be solved in Libya has multiple variables," a senior Turkish diplomat told Sunday's Zaman. But, according to Ilhan Tanır, one Washington-based Turkey observer, on the other hand, preferred to comment Erdogan's statements as mostly stemming from his "emotional reactions."

In this process, while many commentators accused of Turkey as a pragmatist in its democracy and human rights defensiveness, Turkey was not be unconcerned and it shifted its position on Libya.

Turkey: backs joining NATO operation in Libya...

"Turkey does not want to be left outside; she wants to be a part of the decision-making process. We also want to be able get intelligence from the field. We wouldn't be able to do this without being a part of the NATO forces," said Salih Bıcakcı, an academic from the international relations department at Isık University. As Nora Fisher Onar says, "when they saw this was not the case, they said 'we have these cards to play as a NATO member, we have developed this whole web of relationships, let's try to position ourselves to parlay these cards rather than write ourselves out of intervention and let Sarkozy lead it". In other words, "the pragmatism of the Turkish position was based on the realism of Turkish foreign policy that seeks, as Western powers do, to balance the potential gains and losses affecting its national interests before producing an interventionist policy towards Libya."

As Eric Walberg says, "On Thursday, 24 March, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met with NATO's top military commander US Admiral James Stavridis in Ankara and finally acceded to US pressure to support the NATO no-fly-zone on the condition that 'the rules of engagement in Libya must be restricted to protecting civilians, enforcing the arms embargo and no-fly zone, and the provision of humanitarian aid,' excluding any further air strikes against Gaddafi's ground forces."

After this meeting, in a written statement, it is said that "Turkey would make the necessary and appropriate national contribution to implementing a U.N. no-fly zone over Libya and measures to protect civilians."

While "There has been no shift in our position... We have expressed our opposition to a military intervention since the very beginning and today we say the same." a senior Foreign Ministry diplomat told the Daily News; Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters that the decision is 'positive, because it fades France out of the equation'.

If we want to look at the reasons of this U-turn in Turkey's Libya policy, we can give an ear to Nader Habibi and Joshua W. Walker's advices for Turkey before its joining NATO operation: "If Turkey does not join the countries that are putting more and more pressure on Moammar Khadafy, it risks losing not only its hard earned credibility in the region as a champion of democracy but also its access to the Libyan economy after Khadafy is defeated."

On the other hand, Saban Karadas's comments on Turkey's position on Libya before Turkey's "joining" decision could be very effective in changing Libya policy: "A close examination of Erdogan and other Turkish officials' statements on Libya shows that the analogies they often resort to are the cases of Afghanistan and Iraq. The misguided American interventions in these two cases and the resulting destruction have affected the thinking of Turkish leaders in the last decade. For years, Turkish leaders have watched how sanctions imposed on the Saddam regime produced nothing but misery for the Iraqi people... It seems the same analogies are at work again and have come to determine Turkey's position on Libya as well...

What is at stake in Libya is the risk that the unfolding civil war might take a dramatic turn and warrant an international military action that might fall under the doctrine of humanitarian intervention. Although Turkey has taken part in humanitarian interventions in the past, it has failed to develop a principled position, and its approach has evolved case-by-case. Short of any principled position on humanitarian intervention, Turkish leaders are easily seduced to follow analogies that happen to fit to their domestic political agenda. However, they need to engage in a serious reconsideration as to whether they are using the right analogies in Libya, and whether Bosnia or Kosovo would not be better fits."

As Professor Tarik Oguzlu says, "it is notable that the way Turkey acted during this crisis is very similar to the way how Brazil, China and India responded to the calls for the adoption of the resolution 1973 which finally authorized the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya as well as taking some precautionary measures to help protect civilians against military attacks." According to him, "Another motivation on the part of Ankara seems to be that Ankara would be more able to direct the course of developments from within as well as to balance the French ambition to play the leading role during this process. The hope is that with Turkey playing a key role in the planning and command of the operations."

Actually, the sentences of Erhan Basyurt, from Bugün Daily Newspaper, explain the moving force in Turkey's changing Libya position: Turkey needs to assume an active role in the establishment of a new Libya. We cannot say, 'Let Gaddafi massacre his people in any way he wants,' nor can we say, 'Let the West strike Libya in any way it wants, overthrow Gaddafi and shape the country's new administration.' What Turkey needs to do is to ensure that the Libyan public is rescued from this oppression in the most expeditious way possible and with the least damage and loss..."

In parallel to these sentences, Erdogan's statement in reference to the emerging "no-drive zone" policy is so:: "Turkey's role will be to withdraw from Libya as soon as possible" and "restore the unity and integrity of the country based on the democratic demands of the people." "This deployment should not be carried out for Libya's oil." In other words, as Professor Tarik Oguzlu says, Erdogan refers that "there is not a 'one-size-fits-all' western conceptualization of democracy and human rights."

Thus, as Jonathan Head, from BBC, Turkey's foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu urged other participants at the London summit on Libya to move their attention on from military action to what kind of political settlement might be possible after the fighting stops.

UNSC Resolution 1973...

"This particular intervention has set its own precedent for international dilemmas in implementing UN Security Council resolutions in support of the doctrine of the 'Responsibility to Protect,' on the one hand, and the involvement of Western military intervention to implement it, on the other. The former presents moral pressure, and the latter creates discomfort. It is almost as if the solution is more problematic than the problem. Turkey's ambivalence is linked to these broader regional and international dilemmas that surround this case, and the root of these present dilemmas can be found in the legacy of Western-led military interventions since the end of the Cold War." says Gulnur Aybet, from Today's Zaman. "In principle, the Turkish position has not been contradictory to the provisions in place in UN resolutions 1970 and 1973. Turkey had previously stated that any action should be legal under international law, include contributions and support from the region, and that its main aim should be the prevention and cessation of violence against the civilian population. Both resolutions cover this. However, it seems for the first time that it is the actual implementation of the UN resolutions that is being called into question.

While the statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs included the cautionary note that the implementation of the UN resolution should be careful to ensure the safety and security of the Libyan people, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arınc has said that some countries wanting to take a leading role in the implementation of the resolution could be criticized for their actions. This was also reflected in official Russian statements, namely, that the implementation of the resolution was too "hasty."

Today's Zaman's Markar Esayan explains the doctrine of "Responsibility to Protect" for us: "The doctrine, accepted in 2005 by the United Nations, carries the title "R2P," or 'Responsibility to Protect.' This R2P doctrine is based on two main principles: 1) The independence of states implies not only the rights they possess, but also their responsibilities; 2) when civilians face serious threats such as genocide, ethnic cleansing or crimes on the level of crimes against humanity, if the state in question behaves listlessly or unwillingly when it comes to preventing these events from happening, the principle of not intervening in states' inner workings is replaced through a collective vote in the United Nations by the principle of the responsibility to protect."

"As a rising power that deems the strengthening of regional stability and tranquility vital for the successful completion of economic development and political liberalization at home as well as regional economic integration abroad, Turkey tends to have adopted a critical stance on the implementation of the long cherished idea of 'responsibility to protect'." says Professor Tarik Oguzlu. On the other hand, as M K Bhadrakumar says, "following a crucial strategy session in Ankara, Turkey concluded that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) would be the best antidote to Sarkozy's vanity fair; and if the alliance were to take a lead role in the operations, Turkey would also have its say. Turkey hopes to secure a role similar to what it has been playing in Afghanistan - participation in the International Security Assistance Force except in combat operations. Ankara also argues that like in Afghanistan, NATO operations ought to have a mandate from the UN Security Council. Finally, Turkey would want NATO operations to stay within the ambit of UN resolution 1973, which means enforcing a ceasefire, implementing a no-fly zone and rendering relief and humanitarian assistance.

NATO officials have since revealed that Turkey will be one of the seven members of the alliance to participate in the naval operations to enforce the UN's arms embargo and that four Turkish frigates, one submarine and one reserve ship have been deployed."

Turkish Minister Erdogan explained that Turkey agreed to take part in three missions with NATO: "One of them is Turkey taking over duty of humanitarian aid distribution from Benghazi airport. The second mission is the control of air zone. We said "yes' to it. And the third mission is – we have agreed our naval forces taking part in the control of the corridor between Crete Island and Benghazi."

Moreover, as Akin Unver says, "so far, Turkey has committed 6 F-16s, to the forward airbases of Sigonella and Trapani and will strictly carry air-to-air combat load. This means that the Turkish fighter jets will not be dispatched with any bombing or otherwise air-to-ground payload. Turkey also remains strongly opposed to a land operation, as it will render the operation an invasion." In other words, as Fulya Ozerkan says, "the actions it could take include participating in the command and control mechanisms under the NATO umbrella, taking part in potential humanitarian-assistance programs or sending a few warships to participate in a NATO mission to blockade the shipment of weapons to Libya.

But, here, the main question is whether Western countries will obey UNSC Resolution 1973 or not. If its answer is 'no', what will be the fate of Turkey in the future?

"So, where does Turkey currently stand? Ankara is still behind the US resolution ... [But] Turkey is uneasy about the poor planning and one-sided nature of the operation. It is also upset with NATO secretary general Anders Fogh-Rasmussen's "we-decided-you-can-join-us" attitude ... It's unthinkable for a Turkish soldier to attack a Muslim country. But if it is included in the planning process properly, the Turkish military is ready to offer support in every platform, including NATO regarding non-combat issues." Abdulhamit Bilici, from Today's Zaman. "Let's see if the West will choose to help itself and the region by cooperating with Turkey or do the complete opposite by excluding Turkey."

On the other hand, Eric Walberg's question is very crucial for the future of Libyan operation in terms of Turkey: "So what is the fate of UNSC Resolution 1973? Will Turkey prevail, bring an end to the violent Western-backed attempt to overthrow Gaddafi and mediate a peaceful transition to democracy, or will the NATO big guns prevail and bring the unending horrors unleashed by Bush junior in Afghanistan and Iraq?"

Reel politics vs. moral politics...

"Let us hope that we have learned from the Libyan experience, and that we have finally uncovered the truth that in fact it is humans themselves who are always much more valuable than realpolitik, whether these humans are Muslim or Christian." says Markar Esayan.

Before Turkey's joining to NATO operation, Saban Karadas wrote so: "It is often possible to hear criticism that Turkey is pursuing immoral policies or taking a pro-Gaddafi stance. Interestingly, however, Erdogan not only claims that Turkey is in fact the only country that follows moral politics in this case, but he also maintains that the Western powers contemplating coercive policies against Libya are driven by material interests. There is indeed a dilemma here."

Actually, Libya case became an important test for Turkish foreign policy. On the one hand, AK Party Government is trying to balance Western powers; on the other hand, it should face other realities.

"As a predominantly Muslim nation, Turkey's concern over NATO's involvement in military action in a fellow Muslim country can be understandable to a certain extent. But if Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has been mercilessly killing his own citizens with his war machine and a Western coalition has come to their aid, as a long-time member of the alliance and as a Muslim nation, Turkey has the responsibility to support NATO's contribution to the UN-led military operation in Libya. This is despite the fact that collateral damage is unavoidable in such operations." says Lale Kemal, from Today's Zaman. "But, at the end of the day, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) should display a more coherent and realistic foreign policy instead of sporadically zigzagging and making U-turns."

In addition to this, Saban Karadas focuses on Turkey's balance policy between Western countries and Muslim countries through its statements: "As Erdogan emphasized repeatedly in his justification of Turkish policy, he is against placing the country in a position where it would be forced to take military action against another Muslim nation. Here, he constantly refers to the examples of Iraq and Afghanistan, where miscalculated US interventions resulted in the destruction of the country and killing of innocent civilians, and Turkey's decoupling from US policy gained him popularity at home and abroad. Turkey's removal of its objections to NATO's involvement also shows that it still values its partnership with the West and can prioritize Alliance unity. Ankara took seriously the intervention by President Obama and as in other crises with NATO it did not abandon its ally altogether."

About these zigzags in Turkey's position on Libya, "Turkey's aim in the middle term is to prevent a ground operation in Libya." says Salih Bıcakcı. "This is one of the main reasons why Turkey wanted the command of the operation to be led by NATO... If Libya turns out to be a second Iraq, this would damage Turkey's credibility a lot."

But these confusions are very familiar for us. We came across similar pictures in NATO's decision about the deployment of "missile shield system" in Turkey. During those days, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu spoke to a small group of journalists en route from Xi'an to Shanghai as part of his weeklong China trip:

"First of all, Turkey is not a country that has to be convinced by NATO. Turkey is not alone; Turkey is at the center of NATO.

Secondly, NATO should take into account the principle of "indivisible security," meaning that the alliance should preserve each and every member state's security.

Thirdly, Turkey does perceive any threat in its neighborhood and does not plan to be a frontier country as it was during the Cold War era.

Turkey is not in a position to be a frontier country. NATO, while doing threat planning on this issue, should cover all member states and should remain outside any formula that would geographically set one country against another."

And today also, it is claimed that "with the coming to power of the Justice and Progress Party in Turkey, the determinants of Turkey's relationship with NATO began to take a new form, particularly in light of Turkey's attempts to define its role within the framework of a "multidimensional" policy in the different geopolitical circles, particularly the Middle Eastern arena which has seen a great deal of activity in the first decade of the 21st century."

But, we should not forget that NATO, under the leadership of US, will not accept all the conditions of Turkey. In contrast to the sentences of Tarık Oguz, we do not believe that "Turkey will play a key role in the planning and command of the operations."

It is impossible because while US is losing its superpower status, with these attempts it recreates its power. In this process, if U.S. sees any attempt as a necessary step, it will not ask or look at Turkey's decisions or position. So, Turkey should be very careful in order not to be pawn for imperialism. Up to the present, there is no any fair action in the history of NATO. As we mentioned in the past analyses, always and always, US makes a decision in NATO and Israel is the most profitable country in this process because America does not take its steps without thinking Israel and its interests.

We should be aware of these facts. It is possible that Turkey can balance Western position on Libya. But, it is also possible that Turkey can be a pawn for very big imperialist project in Libya. Although Turkey approaches the Libyan issue from a humanitarian perspective, Turkish foreign policy is passing a test at the level of Arab people and Arab countries.

In my opinion, AKP Government should think gains and damages of Turkey's position on Libya again. Otherwise, very small mistakes in this issue/region can cause very big irreparable destructions. By the way, there is a Syrian case which waits to be answered and analyzed.

It seems that these days will be preference test for Turkey, in terms of reel politics and moral politics.


Legal Notice: Copyright, trade marks and other intellectual property rights in this website can not be reproduced without the prior permission.

  • Share