- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 20, 2003

ANKARA, Turkey, Feb. 20 (UPI) — Ankara moved Thursday to end a standoff with Washington by announcing it would send to parliament a motion to allow U.S. troops to deploy in Turkey, but U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said he wanted a reply by the end of the day.

The Turkish move was intended to ease a crisis in relations between the two NATO allies. The bone of contention has been the terms for allowing U.S. and possibly other "coalition of the willing" forces into the country on their way to form a northern front in neighboring Iraq.

The U.S. military considers a northern front would greatly expedite conduct of the widely expected war to topple Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

The Turkish constitution requires parliamentary approval for foreign troops to be allowed into the country. The parliament went home for the weekend Thursday without taking up the motion, but was expected to do so early next week, possibly Tuesday.

Powell said Thursday in Washington he expected an answer from Turkey by the end of the day on whether it had accepted the terms as negotiated.

"There may be some other creative things we can do but the level was our ceiling. … I expect to hear back from them before the day is out but I have nothing further to report there," he said in a joint news conference with NATO Secretary-General George Robertson.

The Justice and Development Party, or AKP, which has a broad majority in parliament, was expected to follow the lead of its leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Prime Minister Abdullah Gul, and give its consent to the motion.

Turkey has already authorized U.S. personnel to upgrade ports and airfields to handle deliveries of U.S. forces and material.

At stake for the Turks is economic aid and military and political issues. Although there have been reports of as much as $26 billion of assistance for Turkey's troubled economy, well-informed sources in Ankara said Washington would not raise its final offer of $4 billion in grants and $2 billion in military debt write-offs as well as $1 billion in shares from Iraqi oil revenues after the war.

However, the sources said, Washington foresaw reviewing the deal within six months of the start of a war.

Negotiations were said to have stalled over Turkey demanding that financial aid be raised to around $10 billion with written guarantees that the United States would deliver on its promises. The Turks allege U.S. promises made during the 1991 Persian Gulf war were not kept.

Equally important were details of military arrangements between U.S. and Turkish forces in Iraq. Turkey has had a military presence in Iraq for many years, pursuing Turkish Kurdish separatist insurgents.

In the past two weeks, it has set up posts on the Iraqi side of the frontier. The Turks say the posts are to serve humanitarian purposes in helping a flood of Iraqi refugees expected to attempt to flee a war.

Western analysts say the Iraqi Kurds are worried about an increased Turkish military presence, which the United States is reported to have accepted.

The Turks have made it plain they won't tolerate an attempt by the Iraqi Kurds to set up an independent state and also oppose proposals by Iraqi opposition bodies for a federal Iraq after Saddam has gone.

A federal state would enable the Kurds to continue enjoying the self-rule they have had in an area free of Saddam's control since 1991. Ankara is troubled by this situation, which it sees as potentially giving encouragement to aspirations for self-rule among its own Kurds.

Ankara also is determined that Kurdish forces be kept out of the oil centers of Kirkuk and Mosul, and the United States has said it will control both sites with neither Kurds nor Turks occupying them. Revenues from Kirkuk and Mosul would assure the Iraqi Kurds economic independence if they controlled them.

Another issue concerns relations between the U.S. and Turkish militaries. While Turkish forces will be commanded by a Turk, it isn't clear how much freedom of action the United States is prepared to allow the Turks in the area they would occupy.

Iraqi Kurds believe the Turks intend to establish control over the region if allowed to do so.


(With reporting in Washington by Eli Lake, Anwar Iqbal and Derk Kinane Roelofsma.)

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