Expected Strong Shifts in Turkey's Foreign Policy Fail to Materialize
DESPITE expectations that Turkey's new government might abruptly shift its foreign policy, possibly to play a more assertive role in the region, government officials say only modest changes in style and approach are imminent.With the political turmoil of a now-broken Soviet Union on its eastern border, and war-smashed Iraq to the south, Turkish Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel's new coalition government is striking a steady-as-you-go foreign policy. The new government still faces a volatile situation along its border with Iraq, the problem of a restive Kurdish population, and the long-standing Cyprus issue. The "fundamental objectives and principles of Turkey's international relations will not change" from the preceding administration of Turgut Ozal (now the country's president), said new Foreign Minister Hikmet Qetin. "There might be only some differences in the way our government will apply policy," he said. Mr. Qetin is a member of the Social Democratic Populist Party, which, prior to forming a coalition with Mr. Demirel's True Path Party, was highly critical of policies followed by President Ozal, particularly during the Gulf crisis. But the new government has made it clear in its first statements that close ties with the United States and Europe remain the major foreign policy goal. "We are determined to develop our relations with our longtime ally, the US," Demirel said at his first news conference last week. "We want our multifaceted cooperation to be institutionalized to acquire continuity." Both Demirel and Qetin have reemphasized the new government's desire for Turkey to become a full member of the European Community (EC). Turkish analysts admit, however, that chances the EC will soon accept Turkey to full membership have dimmed since the the opening of Eastern Europe, applications of other European countries, and decisions at the Maastricht, Netherlands summit on economic and political union. Particularly disappointing was the decision to offer Turkey, a NATO member, only "associate membership" to the nine-member Western European Union military organization, while showing readiness to accept Greece as a full member. "Turkey will not beg for the EC membership," Qetin said. "We want to be an honorable and equal member, and not a forced, second-class partner." Turkish policymakers are planning new foreign-policy options to compensate for possible alienation from Europe. Ozal has lately advocated creation of a "Black Sea Cooperation Area," and forming new ties with the Soviet republics, particularly those of Turkic origin. The Turkish-speaking republics in Central Asia are seeking support, recognition, and closer ties to Turkey. The government has already recognized Azerbaijan and is considering recognizing others. Demirel has also surprised some by taking a firm stance, not unlike Ozal's, toward the Iraqi regime. During the Gulf crisis, Demirel was highly critical of Ozal's strong anti-Saddam policy. "We are a member of the international community and we share the same views and problems on Iraq," he declared recently. Officials say there is no question of Turkey restoring ties with Baghdad unilaterally, despite recent appeals to Demirel by Saddam. During a tour of Turkey's southeastern provinces, close to the Iraqi border, Demirel hinted that Turkey might not hesitate to take cross-border action against Iraq if Kurdish Workers' Party separatists in northern Iraq attack Turkish military posts. While an opposition party figure, Demirel, and even more strongly his social democratic partners, opposed the stationing of allied forces on Turkish soil for possible intervention in Northern Iraq. But Demirel now says there is no point in refusing cooperation with the US and the West. The "Provide Comfort-2" military force, now primarily composed of US Air Force units, is stationed at the Incirlik and Diyarbakir air bases. The agreement concluded between the Ozal Administration and the allies about their stationing expires on Dec. 23. But it now looks certain the deal will be extended.