Turkey’s parliament overnight approved sending a naval force off Libya as the Islamist-rooted government moved reluctantly to join military action in the conflict-torn country despite anger at Western-led air raids.
Following harsh criticism of the strikes, the government asked parliament to approve the dispatch of military forces, pledging a submarine, four frigates and an auxiliary ship to a NATO patrol mission to enforce a UN arms embargo against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.
It obtained a one-year authorisation for deployment as part of “multi-dimensional contributions to international efforts aimed at restoring stability and security in Libya”, according to the motion parliament approved.
The vote was held in a closed session by a show of hands, with some opposition deputies also lending support to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), parliamentary sources said.
Analysts however said the government, influenced by Islamist sympathies, fell out of pace with NATO allies while resisting military action against Libya even though its participation was “inevitable”.
“Turkey was confused and was late… Joining the game was inevitable. It could not have stood against its NATO allies,” foreign policy commentator Semih Idiz said.
Turkey, NATO’s sole predominantly Muslim member and a key regional player, has slammed the air strikes, led by France, Britain and the United States, ruling out any combat mission and vowing to “never point a gun at the Libyan people”.
But with the approval of the naval mission “Turkey will have effectively joined the military operation: if the soldiers are fired on, they will respond”, Mr Idiz said.
Turkey’s navy chief said two Turkish vessels were already at sea in the Mediterranean and the remaining four others had left their ports on Wednesday, heading to the zone of operation.