US, Turkey near accord on military bases

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

An agreement between Turkey and the United States allowing the US to use military bases in Turkey for peacetime storage of armaments and for other purposes is expected to be signed this month, the Turkish Foreign Ministry has confirmed. The accord comes after nearly three years of negotiations between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organization members and follows Turkish Prime Minister Turgut Ozal's recent visit to Washington.

Turkish officials say the accord is not a direct result of Mr. Ozal's talks in Washington last month. In 1982, Turkey and the US signed a ``memorandum of understanding'' that set the framework of security cooperation between the two nations.

However, indications are that a series of decisions to enhance security cooperation between the two nations have been finalized following Ozal's visit to the US.

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One such decision concerns visits of US Sixth Fleet vessels to Turkish ports. The Turkish authorities have also agreed, for the first time, to the visit of a nuclear warship to a Turkish port. Later this month a US nuclear ship visits the Mediterranean port of Antalya.

Turkey has announced it is ready to give the Sixth Fleet repair and maintenance facilities at Turkish naval bases, including Golcuk. The Turks also offered to supply fuel to the Sixth Fleet and to US aircraft stationed at jointly operated air bases on Turkish soil.

The new agreement will enable the US to use Turkish bases for storage as well as for setting up quarters for US personnel to use in time of crisis. The text will specify how and when these facilities may be used.

Turkish officials stress that the use of bases by the US will be strictly within the NATO framework. Foreign Ministry spokesman Yalim Eralp said, ``It is an accord for NATO purposes and the use of the bases will be possible only under NATO's plans and decisions. They cannot be used for purposes outside our NATO commitments.''

The Turks are concerned that the US may want to use these strategically placed bases for an intervention in the Middle East. For this reason they have firmly opposed the US desire to use the bases for the US Central Command, formerly called the Rapid Deployment Force.

Another development following Ozal's US visit is a possible agreement to allow the US to set up relay stations to beam Voice of America and Radio Liberty programs to the Soviet Union and the Middle East

Ozal's critics are reacting with concern and suspicion toward Turkey's new commitments to the US.

Soviet diplomats have also expressed their dismay and concern at the signs of the Ozal government's shift toward closer cooperation with the US. These moves are also followed closely by countries in the Middle East -- particularly those opposed to US policy.

The government's new approach is widely debated in political, diplomatic, and intellectual circles here. Editorial opinion reflects concern on this issue. According to the leftist Hurriyet newspaper, by agreeing to give the US new facilities Turkey is moving toward a new role of policeman in the Middle East on behalf of the US. ``As our commitments to and dependence on the US increase, we shall face further isolation,'' the paper said.

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