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Western Press Review: Turkey Looks to the Light From the East

  • Don Hill
  • Katarzyna Wysocka

Prague, 14 August 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Turkey's new gas deal with Iran, made in defiance of U.S.-backed sanctions, draws comment from the Western Press.

NEW YORK TIMES: The U.S. may have to invoke sanctions against a NATO ally

Steven Erlanger wrote in an analysis in yesterday's edition: "Turkey's new prime minister signed a $23 billion, 23-year agreement on Monday to purchase natural gas from Iran, raising the awkward possibility of the United States having to invoke sanctions against a NATO ally. . . . The deal could provoke a variety of American sanctions against the state-owned Turkish oil and gas company under the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, which gives the president the power to penalize foreign companies that invest $40 million or more a year in the oil and natural gas sectors of either country. . . . Retaliation would create sharp new strains between Washington and a vital NATO ally that bridges Europe and Central Asia, the Balkans and the Middle East."

NEW YORK TIMES: Turkey cannot provide support to Iran without damaging relations with the U.S.

The paper follows that report today with an editorial that says: "When Turkey's new Islamic-led government came to power last month, the Clinton administration anticipated no sharp shifts in Ankara's generally pro-American foreign policies. Washington reasonably expected that Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan's dependence on a secular coalition partner and his reluctance to offend Turkey's military commanders would keep relations between the two NATO allies on course. Those expectations must now be re-examined."

The editorial continues: "For Washington to use legislation to impose secondary boycotts, as the sanctions law does, is unwise and will cause friction with America's allies in Europe and elsewhere. But the underlying policy of discouraging international economic support for the Tehran regime is sound. . . . Unnecessarily alienating Turkey's new government would serve no American interest. Ankara need not follow Washington's lead on every foreign policy issue. But the administration needs to be frank in expressing its concerns over Turkey's warming ties with Iran. Erbakan should understand that he cannot provide political and economic support to the current regime in Tehran without ultimately damaging his relations with the United States."

FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG: Erbakan wants to reduce Turkeys dependency on Russian petrol

In a commentary in today's paper, Wolfgang Guenter Lerch writes: "Now it is clear -- Erbakan, who in the past has found many words of praise for the Islamic revolution, wants to conduct a foreign policy which primarily is oriented on Islam. . . . Is Turkey now definitively floating towards the Islamic side and separating from the West? This would read too much into his visit in Teheran. The relatively cautious American reaction shows that Washington is waiting and trying to understand Erbakans motives. . . .

For the pragmatic Erbakan, (Turkey's) energy crisis is in the foreground. . . . Turkey had become dependent on Russian petrol. Erbakan wants to reduce this dependency step by step. In addition, there are political considerations. The country suffers under its Kurd conflict, which Turkey can't solve on its own. It could be worthwhile to talk about this with the Mullahs, as well as the governments of Iraq and Syria. Other governments have only talked. Erbakan obviously wants to work. . . out a solution for the conflict on the basis of Islam. Whether the Turkish Islamic leader will succeed, is in question. But he just can't be less successful than his predecessors."

LE MONDE: The Turkish army fears adventurism and clings to NATO membership

The French newspaper says today in an editorial: "The American policy of embargoes against Iraq and Iran costs Turkey too much. The way Washington spares Syria in its selective harangues against the patrons of international terrorism takes Turkey too little into consideration. . . . Erbakan wants to express all this by a new style of diplomacy. . . . Europe can't legitimately say much to Turkey; Europe itself collectively opposes Washington's claim to a right to lead the relationships of the entire world with Iran. But the Turkish prime minister does not stand alone at home. He is the chief of a governmental coalition that includes a branch that Tansu Ciller leads. The coalition would break up if he should reverse political direction. Above all, he is surveiled by an army that fears adventurism in foreign affairs, and that clings to NATO membership."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Washington should avoid overreaction

The paper editorialized yesterday: " 'The wrong message to Iran' is how the State Department characterizes the deal signed Monday that commits Turkey to buy. . . natural gas from the bitterly anti-American regime in Tehran. More to the point, however, is what message the long-term agreement sends to Washington. . . . There's no doubt that Iran is welcoming the plan. . . not just as a benefit to its economy but also as a pronounced snub to the United States. Washington now faces a delicate problem in choosing how to respond to the Turkish move. . . . Washington should avoid overreaction."

BOSTON GLOBE: Anti-Western, anti-elite resentment gains public expression in Turkey

Ethan Bronner writes in a commentary in today's paper: "Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey, used to say that the sun rises in the east but the light comes from the west; so that's the direction in which his state would face. But the light has not been shining evenly over this country of 60 million, a key U.S. ally. In the pubs and clubs of central Istanbul, the rich dress in Armani and chat on portable phones, while in the sprawling shantytown suburbs women draw water from wells. The anti-Western, anti-elite resentment growing throughout the Muslim world has gained public expression here. . . . Turkey's new prime minister. . . has sent reassuring signals to the West in the past month. . . . However, the government has angered Washington in recent weeks by reaching out to Iran and Iraq."

FRANKFURTER RUNDSCHAU: Turkey wont allow interference in its relationship with Iran

Gerd Hoehler comments in today's edition: "Criticism is growing in the ranks of Erbakan's Welfare Party because he no longer wants to leave NATO as he promised in his election campaign, and also doesn't want to renounce (his country's) cooperation agreement with Israel. . . . The U.S. government disapproves of Erbakan's flirtation with Iran (and) Erbakan called the United States. . . a 'good friend and ally,' but he also made clear on Iranian television that his government 'won't allow interference by third parties in its relationship with Iran."