The case for strings on US aid to Turkey

AMERICANS like to believe that our alliances are more than a matter of geopolitical convenience, that shared values and a sense of common purpose carry some weight in foreign policy calculations. But Turkey's strategic location has caused the Reagan administration to ignore a number of troubling actions. Contrary to American policy, Turkey has stepped up its aggression on Cyprus. In August, Turkish soldiers -- using American arms -- advanced into the buffer zone dividing the island and placed their flag on an abandoned Greek-Cypriot school, moving out only after United Nations peacekeeping forces moved in. This followed an earlier incident in which Turkish troops -- again using American weapons -- held UN troops hostage for over a week.

According to The Economist, Turkey has sharply increased the number of occupation troops on Cyprus over the past year. Other international reports indicate that Turkey has also accelerated its settlement of Turkish citizens on Cyprus. Just recently, despite numerous diplomatic protests, Prime Minister Turgut Ozal paid an official visit to the Turkish-occupied area of Cyprus, and he has been lobbying fellow Islamic leaders to grant official recognition to that puppet state.

All of these acts clearly contradict America's oft-stated goal of a unified and democratic Republic of Cyprus, free from the threat of Turkish troops. Ironically, this provocation would not be possible if Turkey were deprived of American arms and aid, which is close to $1 billion a year. And it could not continue if America's response even approached mild protest.

But official silence is, unfortunately, not a new tack for our government to take. In 1985, the administration was remarkably mute when Turkey used US resources to draft a new constitution, print currency, and elect a president and parliament for its refashioned republic in the occupied area of Cyprus. When Turkey reneged on its pledge not to support the creation of a Turkish state on Cyprus in 1983, the US didn't slow the flow of our taxpayers' dollars to Ankara.

It's about time the US learn our lesson about turning a blind eye to Turkish aggression.

Twelve years ago our passive response to the invasion of Cyprus shook the very foundation of the US relationship with countries that had previously been unsurpassed supporters of American policy: Greece and Cyprus. The people of Greece -- who so loved our country that 1 out of 4 became American citizens at the turn of the century and who backed us in World War I and sacrificed one-eighth of their people for the Allied cause in World War II -- became disenchanted. Now we see the disturbing results of their disillusionment, with public opinion polls showing that more than half of the Greek people now believe that their old ally, the United States, is a threat to Greek security. Greece and Cyprus perceive a US tilt toward Turkey, and the US is doing nothing to dispel that perception.

Earlier this month the leader of the Turkish-Cypriot community, Rauf Denktash, was in the US for meetings with American foreign policy makers. He will no doubt be touting a new UN settlement proposal for Cyprus that gives great advantages to the 18 percent Turkish minority while depriving the majority of its ability to govern effectively. This proposal would also lead to the dissolution of the Republic of Cyprus before the withdrawal of Turkish troops. And it relegates to mere ``technical'' committees the most crucial issue now pending: the withdrawal of Turkish troops and the 60,000 mainland settlers who were brought to the occupied territory.

No wonder the Turkish-Cypriots ``accepted'' the proposal, albeit conditionally, and no wonder the Greek-Cypriots have proposed a UN-sponsored summit meeting immediately to put the process back on the right track.

What the US should say to Mr. Denktash and his backers is this: We consider Turkey to be an ally, and since you are an integral member of the NATO alliance, we are willing to help you keep your military strong by sending a great deal of money to your country. But we have learned that it is counterproductive to hand our money to Turkey or any other country without comment, at times strong comment, about things that country is doing which fly in the face of America's long-term commitments, interests, and values.

That said, the US should rebuke Turkey for its recent actions on Cyprus, restate our opposition to the continued military occupation of that island, renew our commitment to all American allies in the Mediterranean -- and reinforce that rhetoric with real action if necessary.

Rep. Edward F. Feighan (D) of Ohio is on the Subcommittee on Europe and Middle East of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

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