Erdogan appeals to Libyans to ensure safety of stranded Turks
In a carefully worded address yesterday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan cautioned the Libyan administration against taking "cruel steps" to crush a popular uprising that has swept across the country, saying this would only further fuel violence. Erdogan, who openly called on ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to resign during massive protests against him, has avoided targeting the Libyan leader amid concerns over the safety of about 25,000 Turkish nationals residing in Libya. Addressing Justice and Development Party (AK Party) deputies in Parliament, Erdogan appealed to Libyans to ensure the safety of Turks, telling both the Libyan government and protesters that it is important to ensure the safety of foreigners caught up in the turmoil. "The lives and rights of the Turks in Libya are entrusted to the people of Libya," he said. "We expect both the government and demonstrators to understand our sensitivity and be extremely careful." Erdogan, who has spoken twice with Gaddafi to discuss the evacuation of Turkish citizens, insisted in his speech that the safety of Turks is Ankara's top priority, but also appealed to Gaddafi to avoid fueling violence. "Taking cruel steps against people voicing their democratic demands will only exacerbate the spiral of violence and threaten the country's unity," Erdogan said. Turning more broadly to the upheaval seen across North Africa and Middle East in recent weeks, Erdogan gave a stark warning: "No government that turns to violence against their people, takes no notice of their demands and remains insensitive to their expectations and sees its people as a threat can stay in power long. No regime that uses violence on its people and attempts to suppress demands [for change] through inhumane methods can maintain stability."