Turkey is Silent Over Iraq’s Military Activities With PM-Iraq-Kuwait,Bjt
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) _ Turkey, a staunch Western ally in the 1991 Gulf War, is taking a more neutral line in the latest crisis.
The current tension with Baghdad comes as Turkey is seeking better ties with Iraq. Among other things, it had been negotiating to pump out Iraqi oil that has been trapped in a pipeline between the two neighbors for the past four years.
Foreign Minister Mumtaz Soysal refrained from denouncing Iraq over reports that its troops were massing on the Kuwaiti border. He said Turkey was in close contact with Baghdad, and was offering advice such as the ″utmost caution should be exercised to prevent escalation of tension.″
When told by the reporters that up to 70,000 Iraqi troops were deployed just miles from Kuwait, Soysal said ″How do you know? Did you go and count them?″
Iraqi ambassador Raffi El-Tikriti on Monday expressed pleasure with the Turkish response. ″We do not see Turkey as a member of an alliance which is involved in antagonist attitudes against Iraq,″ he told reporters.
″The new spring atmosphere in our relations is continuing full stream,″ he added.
Soysal, even before his appointment as foreign minister three months ago, had been leading an opposition campaign in Parliament against allied air operations, led by the United States, at Incirlik, Turkey. Allied planes there have been helping protect Kurds in northern Iraq from Iraqi forces.
In a recent TV interview, Soysal said he still believed the allied force should leave. Its mandate expires at the end of December.
″The biggest problem about the allied force from our point of view is that it is preventing us from solving our own problems. It is preventing us from controlling events in northern Iraq,″ Soysal said.
Critics argue that Turkey’s Kurdish rebels operate freely in northern Iraq because of the power vacuum created there after the war.
Turkey, which is battling its own Kurdish minority, is also opposed to Iraqi Kurdish aspirations for their own state.
In a policy shift, Defense Minister Mehmet Golhan said it would be ″quite difficult″ now to allow the allies to use the Incirlik airbase in an attack against Iraq, as it was during the 1991 Gulf War.
Financial reasons provide much of the impetus for this new change of heart. The government says Turkey suffered a loss of $20 billion as a result of the closure of the oil pipeline and the U.N. trade sanctions against Iraq.
That’s a heavy price to pay for being allied with the west in the Gulf war, Irfan Demiralp, a member of parliament, told The Associated Press.
″The allied air force should no longer stay in Turkey,″ he added.
The United Nations has tentatively approved the re-opening of the oil pipeline, as long as the humanitarian aid provided by Turkey in return for the Iraqi oil is distributed under U.N. supervision. Iraq has not accepted that condition yet.