Turkish diplomats visit Asia, USSR in attempt to 'balance' foreign policy

Turkish President Kenan Evren's two-week tour of China, Indonesia, South Korea, Bangladesh, and Pakistan is the highlight of a flurry of Turkish diplomacy in recent weeks.

Foreign Minister Ilter Turkmen, who is accompanying President Evren, traveled to Moscow earlier this month, then went to the NATO foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels. Defense Minister Haluk Bayulken is just back from Jordan, as a follow-up to King Hussein's visit to Ankara last month. And earlier this month, Mr. Bayulken conferred with NATO defense chiefs in Brussels, where a new agreement was signed between the United States and Turkey on the modernization of 10 airfields on Turkish soil.

Analysts here regard the diplomatic movement as part of Turkey's new efforts to develop what diplomats here refer to as a ''multidimensional, balanced foreign policy.''

''Basically we want to pursue a policy of close cooperation with our Western friends and allies,'' a senior Turkish official said. ''But our ties with the West should not be an obstacle to the improvement or development of our relations with the communist and third-world countries, some of which are our close neighbors.

''Our geopolitical location necessitates, and also gives us the opportunity, of adopting such a policy, which is not only in our best interests, but also in the interest of peace and stability in this region.''

General Evren's Asian tour is seen as an extension of this ''multidimensional , balanced policy.'' There has been a good deal of exchange of visits between China and Turkey recently, pointing to what a Turkish commentator referred to as common political interest: a kind of counterbalance to Soviet influence. Moreover, the Turks attach importance to the support of China, as a leader of the third world.

Observers note that the other countries included in Evren's tour were carefully selected: Indonesia, an important member of the third world; South Korea, an anticommunist country where the Turks fought to preserve independence; and Bangladesh and Pakistan, two Islamic countries friendly to Turkey.

The foreign minister's visit to Moscow was intended as a fence-mending mission. Relations between the two neighbors entered a cool period after the 1980 coup in Turkey, particularly because of the belief that the Soviets were behind a destabilization program in Turkey.

Turkmen's visit has not eliminated Turkey's distrust of the Soviets, and Soviet expressions of good intents toward Turkey were assessed cautiously. But the Turks also let the Russians understand they want to become more friendly with them and cooperate - particularly in the economic field.

One message of this trip to the West, as analysts here see it, was that Turkey, which is facing difficulties in its dealings with West Europe, might find itself forced to look elsewhere for interest and support, both political and economic.

The Turks are angered at the position taken by the European Community (EC), which is reluctant to unfreeze a $600 million aid program because of Turkey's military regime. The Community is imposing restrictions on imports of Turkish goods.

Turkey resents Greece's campaign against it within both NATO and the EC. Prospects for reconciliation between the two ''allied'' countries have vanished with Athens' decision to cancel negotiations that were to have begun last week.

But Turkey's strained relations with some European countries are offset by its strengthening ties with the US. The Turks are generally pleased with the American attitude toward their internal problems and hope Washington's interest and sympathy will also be demonstrated with increased aid.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.