- The Washington Times - Monday, January 14, 2002

ISTANBUL Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit will be looking for economic and trade concessions when he meets Wednesday with President Bush, who in turn is expected to stress the need for Turkish support in any campaign against Iraq.
The 76-year-old Mr. Ecevit, who rarely travels abroad, has invited nearly 200 government ministers, businessmen and trade experts to join him on the five-day visit to Washington, during which he will ask for reduced tariffs, a write-off of Turkey's military debt and higher quotas for textile and steel imports.
Mr. Bush is expected to thank Mr. Ecevit for his strong support of the military campaign in Afghanistan and the ongoing efforts to combat terrorism. But the president will likely be looking for continued help in the security field.
NATO-member Turkey hosts a squadron of U.S. warplanes at Incirlik Air Base. The squadron patrols the northern no-fly zone over Iraq. As it was during the 1991 Gulf War, the base would be key to any military attack on Iraqi targets.
"There will be some difficult discussions in Washington. Each side wants something out of the relationship but they are not necessarily in the same areas," said a Turkish official who asked not to be identified.
Mr. Ecevit will give Mr. Bush an illuminated 16th century Ottoman Koran a symbolic gift from the leader of a vigorously secular government in a Muslim-majority nation.
The left-leaning Mr. Ecevit opposed Turkey's cooperation with the United States during the Gulf war and has recently improved diplomatic and trade ties with Iraq in an effort to rehabilitate links to the country.
Iraq was Turkey's largest trading partner before it lost billions of dollars in revenue from the economic embargo on Baghdad.
Turkey's security establishment fears a renewed campaign against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein would result in the establishment of an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq.
Such a development could destabilize the majority Kurdish population in southeastern Turkey, where the government waged a bloody 15-year war against guerrilla separatists.
"The situation in Iraq is very important for us it is our neighbor. We hope that a new problem will not arise for Turkey in regard to the situation in Iraq," Mr. Ecevit told the Associated Press on Friday.
He also said "we will never allow" the establishment of an independent Kurdish state.
"Of course, the United States may have its own concerns. We are committed to discussing such efforts jointly with the United States particularly regarding Iraq," he added.
Mr. Bush and Mr. Ecevit also are expected to discuss Turkey's participation in the international peacekeeping force in Afghanistan.
Turkey will send an advance team this week to Afghanistan to prepare for the introduction of 261 Turkish troops later this month. Turkey has formally requested that it be granted leadership of the peacekeeping force after Britain relinquishes its initial appointment.
Meanwhile, Turkey would like to see the Washington visit focus on improving trade ties between the two countries and gaining increased U.S. investment in Turkey.
The country is climbing out of its worst recession in five decades and is seeking expanded markets for its exports.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem said recently that trade relations with the United States would top the agenda during the visit. Turkey shipped $2.8 billion worth of goods to the United States in 2000, second only to its sales to Germany.
He said the trade was "unbalanced" because Turkey spends large sums on U.S. military equipment but does not receive favorable trading status in return for its strategic support.
"In our relations with the USA, the hitch is in trade. Our trade is unusually unstable," said Mr. Cem.
He also indicated Ankara would request that Washington forgive Turkey its outstanding military debt of more than $5 billion.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell received an earful on the textile-quota issue during a visit to Ankara in November. He pledged to look into the problem and indicated that Turkey could expect a favorable response from the Bush administration.
Expectations are high in the Turkish business sector, especially the textile industry, that Mr. Ecevit will persuade Mr. Bush to ease quotas on several products. Textiles amount to more than 40 percent of all Turkish exports to the United States.

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