By Ashraf Abdul-Wahab.
Tripoli, 30 June 2014:
Mohammad Hejazi, the spokesman for the Operation Dignity forces under retired General Khalifa Haftar, has said . . .[restrict]that last week’s ultimatum to Turks to leave eastern Libya was not intended for all of them and that many Turkish workers had been “too quick” to leave.
Just over a week ago, Hafter ordered Turks and Qataris “from Sirte to Musaid” to leave the country within 48 hours, claiming that there were spies among them.
In a U-turn, Hejazi has now said that the ultimatum was not directed at Turkish workers. “We would like to say to them that if they want to come back, they will be most welcome. We do not have a problem with Turkish people,” he stated.
He has called upon Turkish construction companies involved in infrastructure projects in eastern Libya to provide lists of names of staff so they could be processed and allowed to return. Some companies had already done so, he added. Blaming Turks for being “too hasty to leave”, Hejazi nonetheless added that those returning should pledge not to engage in any undertakings that damaged Libya.
The U-turn is seen as a belated realisation of the damage caused by the ultimatum. Several projects ground to an instant halt as a result it. As many as 600 Turks left Sirte, including over 400 working on the new Khalij Power Station there, and at least 200 were airlifted from Labraq to Istanbul.
No softening of the position was made about Qataris, however, who were also told to quit the country at the same time as the Turks.
The Turks’ position, Hejazi said was “entirely different” to that of Qataris. “They will not be allowed to stay even if they are building huge towers in the country.”
Meanwhile, there is still no news of two Turkish workers who vanished in Tripoli last Tuesday. The pair who work for Summa Construction are believed to have been kidnapped. It is unknown whether the incident relates to Haftar’s threat.
According to Turkish embassy officials, the Turkish community in Libya numbers around 5,000, most of whom are in the west of the country. Before the revolution the figure was put at 20,000.