Turkey edges away from Israel, toward Arabs
Turkey is cooling off its relations with Israel -- and warming up toward the Arab powers of the Middle East. It is doing so primarily for economic reasons. turkey, in short, needs Arab Oil and monetary support more than it needs full diplomatic ties with Israel.
Thus, the Turkish govenrment's recent action to reduce its diplomatic relationsx with Israel to a strict minimum is seen here as part of a shift in Turkey's Middle East policy.
Analysts regard it as one aspect of a Turkish decision to move closer to the Arab world.
The present step calls for limiting Turkey's diplomatic ties with Israel to a second secretary acting as a charge d'affaires. the official explanation for this action is the Israeli govenrment's "uncompromising attitude" on the Arab-Israel conflict and the Palestinian question.
The plan is for Turkey to withdraw all its embassy staff from Tel Aviv, except for a second secretary, within the next three months. Israel has been asked to lower its diplomatic representation in Ankara to the same level.
Turkey's relations with Israel always have been contro Ankara sever these ties. Turhey resisted these pressures in the past, because it did not have much dealing with the Arabs and relied instead on the West, where Israel had influence.
But in the turkish view, thing have changed. Israel's influence in the West is not believed to be so great as it used to be. Moreover. Turkey cannot rely solely on Western support, and the Arab world offers new poorptunities. Finally , Turkey's growing importance in this part of the world makes it harder for the West ignore Turkey's needs.
Behind the official explanation lies a reappraisal of Turkey's policy toward the Arab areas, based on some hard facts about the country's overall foreign relations. Among the factors are:
1. Turkey's economy is in bad shape. It has an annual trade deficit of $5 billion to $6 billion. Its total debts amount to $17 billion. Turkey has to pay, at the present rate of oil prices, $3.5 billion for the import of oil, which is mainly bought from neighboring Iran and Iraq, now in a state of war.
2. Turkey receives economic aid from its Western allies and international agencies such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, as well as from som major commercial banks. However, this aid amounts to about $2.5 billion, and the Turks know that next year it will not be possible to have the Western assistance increased substantially.
3. Therefore, the question is how can Turkey solve its short-term payments problems? More precisely where can or should Turkey turn to obtain oil (particularly in view of the difficulties between Iran and Iraq) and fresh credits. Saudi Arabia appears to be a major source of hope in this respect.
4. Turkey has maintained normal relations with Saudi Arabia, but nothing else. It was decided recently in Ankara that the time had come for closer ties with Riyadh coupled with a request for Saudi and credits. Turkeys asked the United States to support effort, which it did.
A step was taken last month by the visit of fogrein minister ILiter Turkmen to riyadh, which proved quite successful.