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Iraq, Turkey To Hold Talks

February 15, 1999

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) _ Even before talks with Iraq started today, Turkey made clear it is committed to hosting U.S. fighter planes that use a Turkish air base to enforce a ``no fly″ zone over northern Iraq.

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz had barely arrived in Turkey on Sunday when Foreign Minister Ismail Cem said Turkey would not rescind permission it has given the United States to base its planes at the Incirlik air base.

``We shall greet (Aziz) with the good will and warmth that suits a host,″ Cem told reporters. ``But everyone should know that our policies will not change because of a visit.″

Aziz entered talks with Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit today.

U.S. planes have been hitting Iraqi air defense sites for the past several weeks while enforcing the zone. U.S. officials have said the warplanes were acting in self-defense after being targeted by Iraqi missile systems.

The Iraqi conflict has put Turkey in a difficult position. Ankara wants to maintain good relations with neighboring Iraq, a former trading partner, but does not want to upset Washington, its close NATO ally.

Ecevit has questioned the legitimacy of the U.S. attacks. But his government swiftly reaffirmed loyalty to the United States after criticism from Washington for inviting Aziz.

Turkey was expected to urge Iraq to fully comply with U.N. resolutions that would end economically crippling sanctions and help normalize ties.

Turkey says it has lost about $30 billion in trade with Iraq and the shutdown of a lucrative pipeline between the two.

Turkish officials also were expected to ask Iraq not to harbor Turkish Kurdish rebels, thousands of whom are said to have settled in camps north of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. The rebels have been fighting for autonomy in southeastern Turkey, a conflict that has cost 37,000 lives since 1984.

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