- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 15, 2002

Like Portia's mercy in "The Merchant of Venice," rewarding friendly nations is twice-blessed: It blesseth both the

giver and receiver.

Turkey has set the gold standard for cooperating with the United States in its pivotal foreign policy gambits, including our war against Taliban, al Qaeda, and terrorism generally. It should be rewarded accordingly.

Moreover, Turkey is the sole example in the history of Islam that sports a secular and strengthening democratic dispensation and covets Western free market and human rights ideals. Its political culture, at present, admittedly sounds more like a bassoon than a Mozart concerto, but a concerto nonetheless.

In sum, to reward Turkey would encourage other Middle Eastern and Asian nations to enlist more eagerly in our counterterrorism ranks and to shed their trappings of autocracy for more democratic garb, both to the advantage of the United States national security and foreign policy interests.

Turkey has been a longtime and faithful ally of the United States from its early entry into NATO. It fought side-by-side with American troops in the Korean War. It was a military and intelligence asset against the Soviet Union during the Cold War. More recently, Turkey proved a blue chip ally during the Persian Gulf war against Iraq and the conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo.

It has risked the wrath of the Islamic world by forging military and economic ties with Israel. And Turkey has enthusiastically given intelligence assistance and offered military support to supplement our ongoing war against Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan and elsewhere. In other words, Turkey's national security and foreign policy sympathies with the United States are enduring and deep, not anemic and fleeting.

Founded in 1923, the Republic of Turkey is the sole genuinely secular nation amidst a sea of Islamic nations. Turkey's George Washington, the hallowed Kemal Ataturk, enshrined secularism in Turkey's constitution, where it has remained as fixed and shining as the North Star. Ataturk keenly understood the incendiarism of a legally anointed and allegedly superior religion claiming jurisdiction over every nook and cranny of political and private life to any Western-style, democratic flowering. Saudi Arabia, Taliban, and Iran under Ayatollah Khomeini are transfixing proof.

Turkey's movement toward democracy has been fitful and painfully slow. The staunchly secular military felt compelled to intervene on three occasions since 1960 to save the nation from frightful internecine convulsions. But over the last decade, Turkey's march to a democratic drummer has been steady and impressive. Its elections are transparent and free from fraud. Its parliamentary government is accepted as legitimate by popular sentiment.

Political parties are more and more grass roots and less and less personality cults. Turkey's constitutional and statutory human rights reforms have been landmark and laudable. Over the past year alone, amendments have been ratified that substantially expand political party rights, freedom of expression in both the print and broadcast media, and the rights of suspects and prisoners against torture or other law enforcement abuses. Private human rights groups flourish, and an official human rights post has been created to monitor and to safeguard against human rights violations.

Both the president of Turkey, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, and Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit are vocal proponents of human rights. They are the vanguard of Turkey's swelling popular enthusiasm for greater individual liberties, the best guarantee for scrupulous vindication.

As a candidate member of the European Union, Turkey is adjusting its national program to conform with a "Democracy Package" prepared by the Prime Ministry Secretariat General for the EU and crafted by the Justice Ministry. Even Turkey's democratic Achilles heel treatment of its citizens of Kurdish ancestry in the economically depressed southwest and counterterrorism war against the Marxist-Leninist PKK-is yielding to Turkey's more self-confident freedom impulses. The use of Kurdish in broadcasting has been regularized, and even high-ranking members of Turkey's national security establishment are urging a further loosening of restrictions on Kurdish culture.

The PKK, responsible for more than 35,000 largely Kurdish deaths since its ill-conceived secessionist birth in the early 1980s, is now but a shadow of its former gruesomeness.

Turkey has thus earned the sympathy and amity of the United States over long years. During Prime Minister Ecevit's ongoing visit, the United States should reciprocate with the following:

• Relax tariff barriers and quotas for Turkish exports.

• Broach the idea of a United States-Turkey free trade accord modeled on trade pacts with Israel and Jordan.

• Announce financial support for a Baku-Ceyhan pipeline to reduce United States dependency on Middle East oil, Russian hegemony in Central Asia, and Black Sea oil tanker hazards.

• Voice unequivocal support for Turkey's admission to the EU, stressing that Spain and Portugal were swiftly embraced as new members to secure their democratic turnings post-Franco, post-Salazar.

• End the strangulating omnibus embargo on the democratic Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

• Urge the EU to defer consideration of the Greek Cypriot administration's application until a solution to the de facto division of Cyprus is negotiated between the two politically equal communities.

Such reciprocity is especially compelling because Turkey promises to be a strong ally of the United States indefinitely, not transiently like a restricted railroad ticket good for this day and train only.

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