Continues Efforts to Mediate an End to ConflictNumber 160 | April 5, 2011
On April 4, Turkey evacuated 321 wounded and 108 accompanying Libyans on a humanitarian aid ferry. According to Turkish government sources, the humanitarian mission was carried out under the cover of 12 Turkish F-16 fighter jets and a military frigate, while maintaining coordination with NATO. The ferry-turned-hospital brought wounded residents from the besieged Libyan city of Misrata and from the rebel stronghold of Benghazi for treatment in hospitals around western Turkey. The boat carried medical supplies to Libya and brought to Turkey also 29 foreign nationals and dozens of Turks.
The Ankara ferry, which in late March sailed from Izmir to Misurata, was waiting off the coast due to the situation in the city. The critical shortage of medical supplies at the Misurata Hospital alarmed Turkey and prompted the mission, which was brokered under a temporary cease-fire by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who said on Monday that intense "telephone diplomacy" over the weekend with Libyan government and opposition officials allowed the Turkish ship to pick up the injured.
The Turkish ambassador to Libya, S. Levent Sahinkaya, said the Libyan government had sought to direct the ship first to Tripoli or to postpone its trip, but instead the Turkish government sent it directly to Misrata under military escort.
In related developments, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen visited Turkey on Monday as Libya's Deputy Foreign Minister Abdelati Laabidi arrived in Ankara to seek Turkish help for a possible ceasefire with opposition forces.
Rasmussen held talks behind closed doors with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a meeting attended also by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul. "We place great importance on the continuation of efficient NATO efforts... to secure the safety of Libyans, the normalization of the situation in Libya and an end to attacks on civilians," Davutoglu told reporters after the meeting. "We will do our best so that the suffering in Libya comes to an end in the shortest possible time and that a roadmap is outlined in a way that would include political changes in line with the demands of the Libyan people," he stated.