Turks Walk Fine Line between Iraq and West in Spite of the Uneasy Position in Which Turkey Finds Itself, Foreign Ministry and Government Officials Say Privately That These Events Provide an Opportunity for Turkey to Gain Importance in the Eyes of Western Allies at a Time When Its Strategic Value in East-West Relations Seemed to Be Diminishing
Sam Cohen,, The Christian Science Monitor
SQUEEZED by pressures from two opposing sides - the United States and the West on one hand and Iraq on the other - Turkey is trying to follow a tightrope policy over the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
Turkish President Turgut Ozal met Sunday with Iraqi Vice-Premier Taha Yasin Ramadan - the first high-level contact between Baghdad and a NATO country since the Iraqi invasion.
Mr. Ramadan is understood to have assured Mr. Ozal that Iraqi troops would be completely withdrawn from the tiny oil-rich emirate in a short period. But Ramadan stressed there could be no question of restoring the ruling al-Sabah family to power.
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein sent his envoy to Ankara to try to "neutralize" Turkey in the conflict. Iraq's two main outlets for its oil exports are the Kirkuk-Iskenderun pipeline through Turkey and one through Saudi Arabia. The United States and other Western nations have suggested that Turkey and Saudi Arabia shut the pipelines to help impose economic sanctions on Iraq. Although no formal requests have been made.
Mr. Hussein seems alarmed by these reports, as well as by speculation that the US might use Turkey's Incirlik air base in a military operation against Iraq. Ramadan is understood to have asked Turkey to stay out of the conflict.
"I have urged the president to take into account the future of our relationship," Ramadan told reporters after the meeting with Ozal. "(The closing of the pipeline) could be the beginning of the creation of an atmosphere of deep mistrust." He said if there were an international economic embargo on Iraq, "it will be the others who will suffer the damages."
A spokesman for the president said Ozal has called for an immediate end to the Iraqi "occupation" of Kuwait and a restoration of the ruling family. The Turkish government also stressed that all diplomatic efforts should be deployed toward an "inter-Arab solution," before other measures are put into effect.
Turkey has close economic ties with neighboring Iraq. Its oil imports from that country account for half of Turkey's needs. The 650-mile long Kirkuk-Iskenderun pipeline earns Turkey an additional $250 million a year from Iraq for its use. …