Turkey's İzmir is center of NATO aerial mission in Libya - UPDATED
NATO Group Captain Geoffrey Booth said on Friday that the overall mission would be run from NATO\'s Joint Operations Command center in Naples, which already supervises naval embargo operations.
World Bulletin / News Desk
NATO, which is planning to take control of all United Nations-mandated military operations against Libya, fully replacing the United States-led coalition that has carried out airstrikes so far, will use its base in the Aegean city of İzmir to oversee its aerial mission as part of the operation.
Alliance officials' remarks concerning NATO's Allied Air Component Command in İzmir, the main mission of which is to be prepared to conduct the full range of air operations throughout NATO's area of operations, were delivered to the Anatolia news agency on Friday. The announcement came hours after Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said NATO clinched an agreement on Thursday to take over command of all allied military operations in Libya from the United States.
The alliance needs the approval of all 28 of its members to coordinate the operation, and Turkey had set conditions before it would approve. "The coalition that was formed following the Paris meeting will abandon the mission and hand it over entirely to a single command system under NATO," Davutoğlu told reporters late on Thursday. "All of Turkey's concerns, demands on the issue have been met," he said, and NATO has promised to complete the work needed to take over the Libya mission "within one or two days."
In Brussels, NATO officials have said it would take 72 hours after the directive is approved to activate the command and a decision was expected on Sunday on whether to broaden the mandate to take full command, including over attacks on ground targets to protect civilian areas under threat from Muammar Gaddafi's forces.
Earlier on Thursday, Davutoğlu joined US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, British Foreign Secretary William Hague and French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe in a conference call to discuss coordinating that process.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, meanwhile, told reporters on Thursday after four days of grueling negotiations among ambassadors of the 28 NATO states that the US-led military alliance's new mandate did not extend beyond enforcing an arms embargo and the no-fly zone, although NATO could act in self-defense. Asked whether NATO would be able to strike at ground forces or take action against Gaddafi, Rasmussen said, "At this moment, there will still be a coalition operation and a NATO operation."
However, he said talks on giving NATO a broader role would continue and a decision would be made in coming days. In the meantime, there would be close coordination to avoid conflicts.
NATO officials said if all 28 states agreed to expand NATO's role, it would give the alliance political control of military operations. Yet, they said it would "take into account" the guidance of a high-level political platform to include Arab states expected to be established at a conference in London on Tuesday. This would represent a compromise between the positions of NATO members France and Turkey, who have held up a deal.
France, which launched the air campaign with Britain and the United States on Saturday, has argued NATO should provide its command structure while an ad hoc steering group of coalition members, including the Arab League, should exercise political control. France wants to put the operation under a broader umbrella to include Arab states, arguing that having NATO in full charge would erode Arab support because of US unpopularity in the Arab world.
Turkey has wanted to be able to use its NATO veto to limit allied operations against the country's infrastructure and avoid casualties among Muslim civilians that it fears could result from bombing raids.
Before the NATO deal was clinched, Turkey already said earlier on Thursday that it had been assured over concerns regarding the format of the meeting in London for political talks about Libya and is considering accepting Britain's invitation for the meeting.
On Friday, the UK daily The Guardian reported that the London conference will consist of two meetings: "a war council made up of the main governments taking part in the military action, as well as a broader assembly including Arab and African countries devoted to Libya's future."
"We had two conditions: one, a framework within which the UN Security Council and the universal values of the UN will be sovereign. We are trying to provide this. The second is regional participation. The meeting in London will be within this framework. We have made consultations on this point, too. Thus, the meeting in London is not a continuation of the meeting in Paris. This [meeting] will take place via participation of NATO, the UN elements which will take part in this operation and the regional elements," Davutoğlu said, while speaking to reporters late on Thursday.
He was referring to the Paris summit that paved the way for the French-US-British coalition's attacks on Libya and warned of serious consequences if the Western coalition sets a precedent for similar cases in the future. The summit to which neither Turkey nor Rasmussen were invited was harshly slammed by Ankara, with leaders calling the way it was held "against international norms and practices."
On Friday, NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu told reporters that while military command would strictly remain within NATO, the conference in London on Tuesday would set "the wide political guidance" for action against Libya. Rasmussen will attend the meeting, she said.
Overall command in Naples
NATO Group Captain Geoffrey Booth said on Friday that the overall mission would be run from NATO's Joint Operations Command center in Naples, which already supervises naval embargo operations. It will be under the command of US Adm. Samuel Locklear, the operations commander of the coalition mission, but rules of engagement for the NATO mission will be clearly delineated, Booth said.
In Ankara, on Thursday afternoon, during a meeting with opposition Democratic Left Party (DSP) leader Masum Türker, Davutoğlu said "the NATO command in İzmir may be included in the planning," Foreign Ministry officials told the Anatolia news agency. The officials' remarks were correcting an earlier statement by Türker who told reporters that Davutoğlu told him that the operation would be run from İzmir. Foreign Ministry officials said no such information was given to Türker.