Turkey wary as Soviets push into Afghanistan
Events in Afghanistan are being followed with great attention and concern in Turkey. Although this country has no common border with Afghanistan, it is concerned that it might become a springboard for Soviet influence in this sensitive part of the world.
For example, some Turkish officials are worried about the possibility of new "falling dominoes" in the Near East. They believe that both Pakistan and Iran are likely to face stronger Soviet pressure, which could affect their policies.
Turkish newspapers carry maps of the region pointing to the expanding Soviet zone of influence. Some of them report that Turkey is going to feel Moscow's pressures "much closer" than in the past. Some analysts say that Turkey's continuing internal political violence also is provoked by "foreign forces" that have an interest in destabilizing this country.
Violence flared again Jan. 3 when the manager of Israel's El Al Airline was murdered in Istanbul by a group of men who fired on his car.
Faruk Sukan, a right-wing political leader who served as minister of state in the previous government, said that the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan "presents a serious threat to Turkey." He warned that Turkey should be vigilant about these developments and called on the government to embark on a dialogue with countries of this region.
The government reaction was to describe the Soviet invasion as a flagrant interference in the internal affairs of a friendly Muslim country. It also stressed that this move was unjustified and threatening to peace and stability.
The statement is regarded as a significant change of approach by the present government, led by conservative Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel, from the previous administration led by the moderate leftist, Bulent Ecevit.
The pro-Western Demirel government seems to be more forthcoming on such matters, while the leftist Ecevit government usually acted with more reserve. The same difference of attitude was observed during the recent events in Iran, and particularly the taking of the American hostages by Islamic militants, which Mr. Demirel publicly condemned.
The leftist press here, however, is critical of this attitude and finds that Mr. Demirel is following Washington's path blindly.
Nevertheless, condemnation of the Soviet action in Afghanistan is virtually unanimous, and that includes a large section of the Turkish Left (except for the Moscow-orientated fractions).
The pro-Islamic National Salvation Party, particularly, is campaigning in favor of the Muslim resistance in Afghanistan -- but this is being done primarily on religious grounds. The party leader, Necmettin Erbakan, called on Mr. Demirel to request an emergency meeting of the Islamic Conference, a body of which Turkey is a member, to discuss the Afghan situation and to give all the necessary support to the Muslim fighters.
These events may push Mr. Demirel to get closer to some of the Arab countries , in an effort to block increasing Soviet influence. The recent visit of the Minister of Finance, Ismet Sezgin, to Saudi Arabia was viewed in such a context.