(Hurriyet) - Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, in Beirut yesterday for talks, reportedly received the message that "all sides are waiting for the friendly Turkish soldiers" to take part in the United Nations sponsored peace-keeping force in southern Lebanon. FM Gul noted that the final decision from Ankara would come following his upcoming Sunday visit to Israel. Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy was also in Beirut yesterday, calling on Israeli to end the blockade against Lebanon. The French minister also called on a strengthening of force within Lebanon to prevent weapons from reaching Hizbollah forces within Lebanon, reports Trend.
Gul's visit to Beirut entailed talks with the leader of the Lebanese Shiite Party, Nebih Berri, as well as with Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, Foreign Minister Fevzi Suluh, and Saad Hariri, the son of slain leader Refik Hariri.
Gul's message to the Lebanese leaders, following their reiteration of the desire to have Turkish soldiers in Lebanon, was reported as the following by Ankara:
"We are very grateful for the interest shown in Turkey. We are going to Israel on Sunday to speak of this. We will let you know of our decision after our talks there. If Turkish soldiers do come here, their job will be to protect the peace, and to aid the people of the country in providing emergency needs they might have. This is what the Turkish soldiers have done in every area of the world where they have done similar duties. We will not enter into any clashes in Lebanon. We will act only on the wishes of the Lebanese government, the Lebanese people, and various Lebanese groups. We also place importance on the idea of other Muslim countries partipating in this peace force."
Lebanese Armenian party opposes Turkish presence in country
Meanwhile, in ethnically diverse Lebanon, a voice of opposition to Turkish military presence in the country has come from the Armenian Tashnak Party, which said yesterday in a statement, "The Armenian community in Lebanon is opposed to the presence of Turkish troops in Lebanon, and along with its rejection, hopes that the Lebanese government will also reject this." The Armenian Tashnak Party currently holds 6 seats in the Lebanese Parliament, with an estimated total of 120 thousand Armenians living in the country.