Turkey recognizes Libyan rebels
May 23, 2011, 16:10 GMT
Istanbul - Turkey's foreign minister recognized Libya's Interim Transitional National Council (ITNC) as a representative of the Libyan people during a visit to Ankara on Monday by the council's chairman, Mustafa Abdul Jalil.
'Turkey sees the ITNC as a legitimate and recognized representative of the Libyan people,' Ahmet Davutoglu was quoted by the semi-official Anatolia press agency as saying.
Abdul Jalil's visit to Turkey, which began the day after the European Union opened an office in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, represents the highest-level meetings so far between Ankara and the rebel council.
The Libyan rebel leader met with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and with Davutoglu on the first day of a two-day visit aimed at shoring up diplomatic support for the ITNC in Turkey.
He was also expected to meet with President Abdullah Gul.
Davutoglu said the people of Libya had legitimate demands and that the transition to a system in line with their demands could only take place through peaceful means, Anatolia reported.
'Protecting the territorial integrity of Libya and maintaining the country's respected position in the international community as a strong, united and single state,' is a priority for Turkey, Davutoglu added.
NATO's only Muslim member state, Turkey has backed the alliance's intervention in Libya after initial reluctance to support a military operation.
Turkey's efforts to play a mediating role between the rebels and the regime of Moamer Gaddafi - which include a three-pronged roadmap proposed by Erdogan last month - have so far proved fruitless, prompting Ankara to take a harsher tone against the regime.
Earlier this month, Erdogan called on Gaddafi to 'leave power immediately.'
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