Crisis Spurs Active Turkish Role BREAKING WITH TRADITION

Article excerpt

`AFTER the Gulf crisis, the map of the Middle East will change completely," Turkish President Turgut Ozal has said. "If there is a better place (for us) in the world, we must take it. But this requires a more active policy."

Turkey's approach to developments in the Gulf since Iraq invaded Kuwait Aug. 2 reflects this desire to take a more active part in the region's affairs.

Ankara was quick to respond to the Iraqi aggression by shutting down a key oil pipeline and putting United Nations-sponsored economic sanctions into effect. Parliament last week also granted the Turkish government special powers to send troops to the Gulf and to allow foreign forces to be stationed on its soil for non-NATO purposes.

In the past, Turkey has preferred to stay out of conflicts in the Middle East. It took a strictly neutral position on the Iran-Iraq war.

Much of this new direction in policy is the initiative of Mr. Ozal, who says the Gulf crisis offers an opportunity for Turkey to regain its geopolitical and strategic importance, which Turks feel has been devalued by the end of the cold war.

Ozal's personal diplomacy and initiatives on the Gulf crisis, however, have aroused widespread criticism from opposition parties, who blame him and the government for causing a major shift in Turkey's traditional, cautious policy on the Middle East.

"This is an adventurous policy," says Erdal Inonu, the leader of the Social Democratic People's Party. "The government calls it an active or dynamic policy. Turkey needs no such policy, which presents nothing but great risks."

According to Suleyman Demirel, the leader of the center-right True Path Party, Turkey's attitude is now "more royalist than the King ... Ozal wants to send our boys to the deserts of Arabia for the sake of adopting an active policy. To expect benefits from the possible bloodshed of our men in the desert is just ruthlessness and unintelligent. …