NATO ministers have ended a third day of talks over the crisis in Libya without agreement on whether the alliance will assume command of military operations aimed at protecting civilians from forces loyal to leader Muammar Qaddafi.
NATO diplomats who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity after the meeting said the main obstacle to agreement was Turkish opposition.
Turkey said it objected to NATO taking responsibility for offensive operations that could cause civilian casualties, as well as to the alliance enforcing the UN-mandated no-fly zone while coalition aircraft simultaneously bomb Libyan forces.
Speaking in Ankara, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said, "It would be impossible for us to share responsibility in an operation that some authorities have described as a 'crusade'" -- an apparent reference to the use of that term by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Qaddafi himself.
A NATO source who spoke to the Associated Press said Turkey, a Muslim NATO member with major commercial interests in Libya, wanted Western coalition countries to finish their air strikes before NATO assumes command.
Pause for a moment to reflect on this:
"It would be impossible for us to share responsibility in an operation that some authorities have described as a 'crusade'"
So a NATO member is refusing to participate in a NATO operation or even consent to other NATO members conducting the action under NATO auspices because of a descriptive term used by the Russian Prime Minister and the dictator Gaddafi, the target of the operation! How insane is that?
Apart from the Islamic motivation, it seems personal pique is still a factor in Turkey's decision. Turkish officials are continuing to express bitterness about France, apparently because Turkey was not invited to the meeting that preceded the start of military action:
Diplomatic correspondent Idiz says France's leadership in the strikes has particularly irked Ankara, adding a chill to relations already strained over President Sarkozy's vocal opposition to Turkey's EU membership bid.
"Given the personnel animosity that Erdogan and Sarkozy feel for each other, I don't think there is much love lost between the two capitals at the moment. I do also think there is a brinkmanship, one-upmanship going on between the two capitals. France seems to have passed Turkey in the race over Libya, and Ankara is clearly smarting from this," Idiz said.
But professor of international relations Cengiz Aktar, at Bahcesehir University, warns such rivalry risks losing sight of what is really important.
"Erdogan gives [the] impression he is against the international intervention because he is angry with Sarkozy. This can't be serious. In international relations, this sort of anger does not count. What counts is the interest of [the] country or the safety and security of human beings," Aktar said.