Brussels/Istanbul, March 25 (DPA) Turkey announced late Thursday that its conditions had been met brought closer the prospect of NATO taking over enforcement of a UN-mandated no-fly zone over Libya.
Turkey, the alliance’s only predominantly Muslim member, had previously expressed opposition to NATO taking charge, insisting on strict limits being placed on the airstrikes that are necessary to enforce the no-fly zone.
But Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told state broadcaster TRT that the way had been cleared for NATO to take over control.
Davutoglu did not elaborate, but TRT reported that he held phone calls with the US secretary of state as well as the British and French foreign ministers prior to making the announcement.
On Wednesday, another green light came from France, when it announced agreement on its own condition of subjecting NATO command to the “political oversight” of foreign ministers of countries taking part in military action.
Later that day, Britain announced that a “Libya contact group” would convene in London Tuesday.
But in Brussels, NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu indicated that details were still being worked out by the alliance’s ambassadors, who were holding their seventh consecutive day of talks.
“They are still meeting,” she told DPA.
Since Saturday, the no-fly zone has been enforced by an impromptu coalition, directed by the US and aided by a number of countries including Britain and France.
Turkey has insisted that NATO should strictly limit itself to taking out Libyan air defences and any aircraft violating the no-fly zone, while in the past days the coalition has also struck other targets such as a compound of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Whether individual countries would still be able to carry out those attacks outside of the NATO command structure was as the heart of ongoing discussions, one diplomat told DPA.
In Afghanistan, for example, most US soldiers are part of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) but some of their missions are carried out under the US-only Operation Enduring Freedom.
Earlier in the day, the Turkish parliament approved a motion to send troops overseas to contribute to a separate NATO mission policing of a UN-mandated naval arms embargo over Libya.
On Wednesday, NATO officials in Brussels had said Turkey would be sending four frigates, a submarine and an auxiliary ship for the operation.
The NATO alliance has been beset by internal divisions over how to address the situation in Libya.
Some member countries had said Turkey was standing in the way of agreement on the issue due to its strong objections to a Western military intervention in a Muslim country.