NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen's first stop in Ankara was Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's office. Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu also participated in the meeting between Rasmussen and Erdoğan who took a break during the weekly Cabinet meeting in order to meet with Rasmussen.
“In addition to discussing ways of maintaining the cease-fire in Libya, Erdoğan and Rasmussen exchanged views on the need to show respect for the will of the Libyan people,” sources from the prime minister's office told Today's Zaman.
Rasmussen, meanwhile, informed Erdoğan of “NATO's new command system,” the sources said, without elaborating further.
Rasmussen’s visit came at a time when the Turkish capital was preparing to host later in the day an envoy from Muammar Gaddafi’s government who has sought Turkey’s help for a possible cease-fire with opposition forces.
There is no meeting scheduled between Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Abdelati Obeidi and Prime Ministry officials, the sources told Today’s Zaman, underlining that contacts with Obeidi have been coordinated and assumed by the Foreign Ministry.
Following the meeting with Erdoğan, Rasmussen held separate talks with Davutoğlu at the ministry residence. There was no official statement issued following talks at the prime minister’s office. Davutoğlu, in a statement after meeting Rasmussen, said the Turkish side underlined importance of “territorial integrity of Libya, providing life security for Libyans, giving an end to killing of civilians and providing an eventual normalization at once.”
Rasmussen’s visit to the Turkish capital comes days after NATO assumed command of all air operations over Libya last Thursday, taking over the role from the United States.
NATO is among those saying a new UN resolution would be required to arm rebels, though Britain and the US disagree. Several world leaders, including Prime Minister Erdoğan, oppose arming rebels.
At a joint news conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday in London, Erdoğan said Turkey’s view was “negative” on the issue of arming fighters seeking Gaddafi’s ouster. “This could also create an environment which could be conducive to terrorism, and that would be dangerous,” he said. “It should be NATO which should protect civilians from cruelty,” Erdoğan said, dismissing any rift with Cameron on the issue.
In addition to Libya, the situation in Afghanistan also occupied much of the agenda, since in the war-torn country, where Turkey has troops, three UN staff and four security guards in Mazar-i-Sharif were killed on Friday in an attack on a UN mission by protesters enraged by the burning of a Quran in Florida.
Turkey on Sunday condemned the attack strongly, calling the burning of the Quran an “irresponsible and provocative act” and saying it was clear that such actions make the jobs of international personnel working in Afghanistan more difficult.