Turkish PM says ready to mediate in Libya

AFP , Monday 28 Mar 2011

Erdogan offers mediation saying that shooting at Libyan people is out of the question

In this Tuesday, 22 March 2011 photo, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan gestures while addressing his lawmakers in Ankara, Turkey. (AP)

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country would be willing to act as mediator between Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and anti-regime rebels, in a British newspaper interview Monday.

If the two sides in the conflict ask Turkey to take on the role of mediator, Erdogan told The Guardian that "we will take steps to do that" within the framework of NATO, the Arab League and the African Union.

"We can never ignore the democratic rights and liberties called for by the people of Libya, and change and transformation can never be delayed or postponed," he added.

Turkey is among the countries invited to a conference on Libya in London on Tuesday to be attended by the foreign ministers of 35 countries, including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and France's Alain Juppe.

Erdogan said he had spoken to the Libyan prime minister since international air strikes began in Libya, and Turkey's foreign minister was in close touch with the opposition based in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.

"Gaddafi wants a ceasefire, this came up when I was talking to the prime minister, but it's important for those circumstances to mature. It wouldn't be consistent to keep shooting while demanding a ceasefire," Erdogan said.

NATO took full command of military operations in Libya from a US-led coalition on Sunday, after days of tense negotiations about the alliance's role in enforcing a UN resolution to protect civilians in the conflict.

Turkey had voiced concerns about the intervention, and Erdogan said Monday: "For Turkey, it's out of the question to shoot at Libyan people or drop bombs on the Libyan people."

"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," he added.

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