REUTERS by Ibon Villelabeitia
Hesitant at first to dump one-time friend Muammar Gaddafi and to back NATO operations, Turkey is taking a lead role in efforts to rebuild Libya now the Libyan leader is on the run, eyeing billion dollar deals and hoping to extend its influence in north Africa.
Muslim Turkey, a rising diplomatic and political power in the Middle East and in North Africa, had close political ties with Gaddafi and Turkish companies had projects worth more than $15 billion in the oil producing nation last year.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who in February said NATO intervention in Libya was "out of the question," once received the Gaddafi International peace prize from Gaddafi himself.
But as the revolt spread, forcing the evacuation of thousands of Turks and leaving unfinished projects behind, and as Gaddafi grew more isolated internationally, Ankara shifted its position.
It reluctantly backed NATO operations, called on Gaddafi to step down and recognized the rebels as Libya's legitimate government. Ankara has provided the rebel National Transitional Council, the new masters of much of Libya, with $300 million in cash, loans and other aid.
Speaking at a Libya Contact Group meeting of senior diplomats in Istanbul Thursday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu urged the United Nations to unfreeze Libyan assets and pledged full international support for a stable, prosperous and democratic Libya.