Friday, May 13, 2011
Turkey’s initial falling out with the West, and NATO on policy toward Libyan awakening, recently was replaced by a more coherent tune.
The Turkish road-map, which was put forward by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan at the beginning of May for Libya, on Thursday morning, was openly embraced by Dr. Mahmoud Gibril Elwarfally, interim prime minister of the Libyan Transitional National Council, or TNC, in Washington, DC.
Jibril, during his talk at Brookings, a think tank, said the Turkish road map could be taken as an “overall framework” for peace negotiations. Jibril, answering my questions following his talk at the Brookings, also added that for any plan, the United Nations will have to be the main actor, and facilitator, and any negotiations that will take place have to be based on U.N. Security Council 1973 resolution.
Turkey’s change of heart about Gadhafi to tell him to "leave," in addition to closing the Turkish Embassy in Tripoli apparently reflected positively on the TNC. About a month ago when I asked Ali Aujali, TNC’s Washington envoy, about Turkey's policy toward Libya, he had a lot of harsh and undiplomatic words for Erdoğan. This time though, the top official of the TNC, Jibril, avoided even criticizing Turkey’s unwillingness to freeze the Gadhafi regime’s assets, and said only, “we ask all countries to obey 1973’s articles. Turkey is no exception.”
Jibril’s public support for the Turkish peace plan was equally significant signal to Turkey and the international community that the TNC recognizes Turkey’s special role in the region and its deep involvement with their country economically, which the new government following the Gadhafi regime will have to deal with head on.
American educated Jibril’s talk in Washington aimed primarily to paint a broader picture for those who want to know more about TNC, and what kind of a future they have in mind for Libya once the Gadhafi regime falls. Jibril seized the moment, and diagnosed what is occurring in Middle East and Libya today as a natural result of globalization.
What youth wants in different countries in Middle East, including Libya, is the same as what other youths around the world want, said Jibril, which is to reach basic human dignity comprised full individual rights and freedom. There needs to be a new approach in the international relations, Gibril said, in which power of the communication is recognized as new rule of the game and policy adaptations ought to be made accordingly.
After giving this broader picture, Jibril asked the U.S. administration to release Libya’s frozen assets, "We are facing a very acute financial problem because of the frozen assets," Jibril said. "So I would like to call on the United States administration to help us."
While Turkey is now about on the same page with NATO on Libya, on Syria though, since no country has been able to decide what position to take, Ankara doesn’t feel any heat about another falling out with the West yet. Washington, for weeks, keeps stating that “the window" for Assad to take on radical reforms to meet with Syrians' demands "is narrowing,” but not closed.
Timing of Erdoğan’s recent interview with Charlie Rose is also interesting and displays Ankara's courage to meet with the international media, since Ankara has been able to close the ranks with the West on the Arab Spring.
Ankara should also take this temporarily catching up phase to make some value-free assessments for ongoing Arab Awakening.
More than a month ago, when I had a chance to interview Ms. Farah Pandith, Special Representative to Muslim communities around the world, at the U.S. State Department, she talked about her engagement activities with the youth in Muslim countries in detail. She explained her office's engagement policy with them to listen and understand the booming Arab youth. That is why, Pandith concluded then, Secretary Clinton was able to make a speech last fall in Doha and warned Middle Eastern governments to heed their young generations’ demands, before all started.
Ankara’s earlier anti-colonial and occidental rhetoric over Libya, slightly revealed that some part of the decision making staff in Ankara might be still under the influence of events that occurred about 100 years ago, during World War I, when the British, through mainly Herbert Kitchener, Minister of War and former commander of Britain’s imperial armies, promised and through his officers in Cairo, provoked Arabs to rebel against the dying Ottoman Empire, to only seize much of Ottomans’ Arab-speaking territory afterwards. It is over 100 years and Arab youth know as much as their western peers what they want now.
Ankara made some mistakes with the ongoing Arab Awakening, but so far, by no means, it lost it yet.
Ankara’s latest policy change on Libya, show signs that Ankara can catch up with today even it has to make some U-turns.
Now it is time for Ankara to catch up with the future. It is to become a leading voice and pressure point for real change in Syria, not merely a follower.