Prospect for Gulf war cease-fire is practically nil, Turks say after mediation effort
Istanbul — Turkey, after trying to mediate a peace between Iran and Iraq, sees dim prospects for an early end to the war between its two neighbors. ''Neither side is in a mood for talks,'' a Turkish official says. ''They maintain their known position. This does not give ... encouragement to conduct a mediation effort.''
Ankara officials were well aware of the position of both sides before the recent visits of Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Vellayati and Iraq's Deputy Premier Taha Yassin Ramadan.
Turkish officials knew that Iran was strongly opposed to ending the nearly four-year-old hostilities unless its conditions were fully met, and that Iraq, although more willing to cooperate in a mediation effort, would not accept any precondition imposed by Iran.
Nevertheless, the Turkish government took the opportunity of having the Iranian and Iraqi dignitaries in Ankara extend peace feelers. The conclusion drawn from the exploratory talks with two officials is that chances for a cease-fire - or even for a formal mediation process - are practically nil, Turkish officials say. Iran's adamant attitude, they add privately, is chiefly responsible for this situation.
The officials say internal differences in Tehran are not likely to dampen the Iranians' determination to carry on with the war. Iraq, they continue, will not yield to its enemy despite local economic pressures and Iran's superior manpower.
The Iranian and Iraqi officials made their tough attitudes public in statements in Ankara. Mr. Vellayati told newsmen that Iran's conditions must be accepted if the war is to end.
''Our war will continue until we obtain our rights,'' he said.
He refused any mediation effort by any foreign power, including Turkey, although he said Turkey was acting impartially.
Mr. Ramadan said Iraq wanted an early end to the conflict, but he disclosed that ''in a few days we shall tighten our blockade around Kharg Island, (Iran's main oil terminal).'' Indeed, Iraq broke a month-long lull in attacks on Gulf shipping on Tuesday when its jets hit a Liberian tanker south of Kharg Island. On Thursday, Iraqi warplanes hit an Iranian oil platform in the Gulf.
On the economic front, Mr. Ramadan's talks with Turkish Prime Minister Turgut Ozal brought bigger results. They signed a protocol for the construction of a second pipeline that will pump 500,000 barrels of oil daily to Turkey's Mediterranean outlet.
One million barrels of Iraqi crude already flow each day through a 612-mile Iraqi-Turkish pipeline - the only outlet to the Mediterranean for Iraqi oil.
The new pipeline would help ease the economic pressure Iran has exerted on Iraq by closing down its oil terminals in the Persian Gulf.
The proposed pipeline, which will run almost parallel to the existing one, is expected to be completed within 18 months.
A joint committee is to study the feasibility and financial means of the project. Turkish and Iraqi experts will continue to discuss other projects, including a liquefied petroleum gas pipeline.
On the other side, the Iranians showed interest in buying more wheat, steel, and iron from Turkey; the Turks showed interest in more Iranian oil.
This kind of cooperation with other Islamic countries is becoming an important part of Turkey's foreign policy. Turkey rolled out the red carpet Wednesday for another Mideast dignitary - Sheikh Zaid bin Sultan al-Nahayan, President of the United Arab Emirates. Talks will center on matters of economic cooperation and will be crowned with the signing of an economic cooperation agreement.
Also this week, the Turkish government granted special status to two Islamic financial institutions that insisted on operating in Turkey under Islamic principles. (Turkey has a secular Constitution.)
The government issued a decree allowing two firms, the Saudi Arabia-based Al-Baraka Investment & Development Co. and the Switzerland-based Dar al-Maal al-Islami, to open offices in Istanbul. These institutions will operate in this country for the first time on a profit-and-loss basis - i.e., no interest - in accordance with Islamic religious laws.
Interestingly, the main Turkish partner of the ''Al-Baraka'' group will be Korkut Ozal, brother of the prime minister and a former politician himself.