Turkish foreign minister voices support for hariri tribunal
Compiled by Daily Star staff
Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan stressed Friday the importance of settling Lebanon's political crisis through "dialogue," and the need to hold the presidential elections on time.
"Lebanon's stability is of extreme importance to Turkey and to the whole region," Babacan said Friday after meeting with Premier Fouad Siniora.
The Turkish official arrived in Beirut for a one-day visit to discuss with Lebanese officials ways of defusing the ongoing political crisis. Babacan arrived on Thursday night and then on Friday met with Siniora, Speaker Nabih Berri, head of Parliamentary majority MP Saad Hariri and resigned Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh.
"Political dialogue is the only way to finding solutions and settling problems," said Babacan.
"We would like to see a solution to the political crisis in Lebanon through negotiations," he added.
At the same time, Syrian President Bashar Assad is in Turkey for a three-day official visit to strengthen the ties between the two countries.
Babacan reiterated his support for strong relations between Lebanon and Turkey, saying that Turkey's government was keen on preserving Lebanon's unity and hopeful that Lebanon will be able to solve its political crisis soon.
"The [presidential] election is one of the most critical steps to ending the current political dilemma," said the Turkish foreign minister after meeting Berri.
Babacan described his meetings with the Lebanese officials as "fruitful" and praised the ongoing efforts of both Berri and Hariri in finding a middle ground on the presidential issue.
"We are prepared to assist in any way we can and hail the efforts to find a solution," he told reporters after meeting Hariri.
Babacan also reiterated the importance of having the presidential elections "on time and in accordance to the Constitution."
Babacan official also expressed Turkey's support for the international court that will try those behind the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and others, and condemned "terrorist acts" against political and non political figures.
Hariri in turn thanked Turkey for its efforts in Lebanon and for its "strong stance" against the summer 2006 war.
"Turkey fully support's Lebanon's sovereignty and independence," Hariri said after the meeting.
Hariri said his meeting with Babacan did include discussions over Assad's trip to Turkey, but would not elaborate on the content of the discussions.
When asked about why Babacan did not meet opposition leader Hizbullah's chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah or the Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun, Hariri said it wasn't due to a "particular stance."
"There are historic relations between martyr former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and the Turkish officials and we are building on that relation," he said .
Babacan headed South to visit the Turkish contingency in the international peacekeeping forces based in the South of Lebanon, where he dined with around 500 Turkish troops from naval and ground forces.
Babacan's visit to Naqoura coincides with a joint news conference to be held on Saturday by the foreign ministers of Spain, Italy and France - Miguel Angel Moratinos, Massimo D'Alema and Bernard Kouchner - at the Naqoura headquarters of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. - Agencies