Turkey’s prime minister has visited Libya in the latest leg of his North Africa tour, a day after French and British leaders won a hero’s welcome there for helping to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, attended Friday prayers at Tripoli’s Martyr Square, where he was greeted by Mustafa Abdul Jalil, chairman of the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC).
At a joint press conference with Abdul Jalil in the capital, Erdogan spoke about the Libyan people’s “struggle for freedom” and hailed what he called the sacrifices of the Libyan people.
“I am happy to have been a witness to the advent of democracy in Libya,” he said.
Al Jazeera’s Anita McNaught, reporting from Libya, said, “He’s talked about how the age of tyranny and dictatorship is over”.
“Basically, Erdogan said to the people of Sirte, ‘Come and join the party, since there is no reason why you’d stand outside of this. Join your brothers in Tripoli and Benghazi’.”
“He’s watching what we are watching, the final conclusive battles for Libya,” our correspondent said.
Erdogan is hoping to reap political and economic dividends from Libya’s new rulers for his country’s help in their struggle to topple Muammar Gaddafi.
France and Britain spearheaded the air campaign that toppled Gaddafi, but Turkey – which had contracts worth $15bn in Libya – backed it reluctantly and was slow to recognise those now leading the oil-rich North African country.
A Turkish ship did play a key role in evacuating civilians from the coastal town of Misrata while it was besieged by Gaddafi forces, and Turkey has recently been vocal in supporting the NTC and provided it with $300m in cash, loans and other aid.
Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, and David Cameron, the UK prime minister, were told their support may be repaid in business contracts with Libya.
Turkish companies with business in Libya are hoping the NTC will honour pending payments once assets are unfrozen.
Taner Yildiz, the Turkish energy minister, has said he wants state-owned oil and gas exploration company TPAO to resume oil exploration and production work in Libya if security is established.
Erdogan, who has visited Egypt and Tunisia this week, has been holding up Turkey’s blend of Islam and democracy as a model for the movements that have toppled longtime Arab rulers in Tunis, Cairo and Tripoli.
He has already won plaudits from Libya’s new rulers.
“We expect the world community to follow the wonderful support of Turkey, its leading role and effort. Turkey has done an amazing job,” Aref al-Nayed, Libyan ambassador to the UAE, told a recent Libya Contact Group meeting in Istanbul.