Turkey's Ozal tries to cement military and economic ties with US
Istanbul — Turkey expects the arrival of Prime Minister Turgut Ozal in the United States today to mark an expansion of relations between the two allied nations. The fact that such a visit -- the first by a Turkish leader in 13 years -- is taking place is in itself significant, Turkish officials say.
The visit reflects an improvement in relations from the 1970s, when Congress imposed an arms embargo on Turkey after the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus.
The lifting of the ban in 1978 and a number of factors have helped relations, most particularly the importance given by the Reagan administration to Turkey as an ally in a critical part of the world.
The two countries have established strong military ties; Turkey provides vital facilities to the US in exchange for substantial military and economic assistance. Washington and Ankara have also set up a constructive dialogue enabling them to coordinate policies and to exchange views on regional and international matters.
Ozal's intention is to expand these relations to other fields as well. He believes that closer economic and trade ties would set solid ground for future relations.
This is only one of the topics the Turkish leader will discuss with President Reagan and senior administration officials during his 10-day visit, which will also include contacts with the business community in New York.
The main topics Ozal expects to discuss in Washington are:
US aid. Turkey estimates that it needs $1.2 to $1.5 billion in aid to modernize its armed forces.
In the fiscal year 1985, Turkey received $700 million of security assistance from the US. This year the administration has requested from Congress $789 million of military aid for Turkey, of which $230 million will be grants.
The Turks fear that Congress, under pressure from the pro-Greece lobby, might try to reduce this amount as it did in the last few years. In fact, a House committee marking up foreign aid last week cut $49 million of the requested assistance to Turkey.
Ozal is familiar with US politics, but he indicates he will make a strong point that the administration should deploy all efforts to convince Congress to accept the request and to increase aid in the coming years.
He will also strongly urge the administration to prevent Congress from restoring the 7-to-10 ratio in the aid program to Greece and Turkey, which the Turks find unfair because of Turkey's heavier commitments to NATO.
Congress. Its attitude on matters concerning Turkey is disturbing and even irritating to the Turks. In the past, Congress has attached strings to aid to Turkey and made it conditional to Turkish concessions on Cyprus.
Now another sensitive question for Turkey is coming up before Congress as attempts are made to pass a resolution on the Armenian issue, condemning the Ottoman Turks for committing genocide against the Armenian community in 1915.
It is understood that Ozal will urge the Administration to prevent ``third-party questions'' from interfering and adversely affecting US-Turkish relations. Ozal will also extend the same appeal to Congress.
Economic ties. Ozal wants to promote interest among US companies to do more business with Turkey and increase their investments and joint ventures.
Ozal also wants the US to lift some trade barriers against Turkish exports to the US, particularly textiles -- a controversial issue which he intends to raise at the highest level in Washington.
Relations with Greece. Turkey is concerned over the policies of the Greek leadership and fears that Greece might try to force a solution of the Aegean Sea dispute by, for example, extending territorial waters to 12 miles.
Ozal has an ``olive branch'' attitude toward Greece and calls for negotiations. He is likely to ask for US support on his stand.
On the issue of Cyprus, which is divided into Turkish and Greek sectors, Ozal is expected to reassert willingness of the Turkish side to reach a negotiated settlement. US officials might ask Ozal to use his influence on Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash for an early return to the conference table.
Several other issues are expected to be reviewed and discussed during the talks, from the human-rights situation in Turkey to cooperation on antiterrorism and developments in the Middle East.