Skip to comments.Turkey: Bush issues veiled warning to Turkey
Posted on 03/08/2003 3:04:45 PM PST by Lando Lincoln
Bush issues veiled warning to Turkey
'We've got contingencies in place that should our troops not be allowed to come through Turkey. And no, that won't cause any more hardship for our troops. I'm confident of that'
President George W. Bush said the United States had contingency plans in place if Turkish Parliament insists on not allowing in U.S. combat troops to open a northern front against Iraq, in a veiled warning to Turkey that it might end up with missing its chance to have a say in the future of Iraq and lose a multi-billion dollar aid package to protect its economy from negative impacts of a war.
But he brushed aside any suggestion the United States would withdraw its support for Turkey's bid to join the European Union unless it reverses course, saying: "I support Turkey going into the EU."
"Turkey's a friend. They're a NATO ally. We'll continue to work with Turkey," Bush told a White House news conference. "We've got contingencies in place that should our troops not come through Turkey -- not be allowed to come through Turkey. And no, that won't cause any more hardship for our troops. I'm confident of that."
In a major setback to U.S. war plans for Iraq, Parliament refused in a close vote last weekend to approve the deployment of 62,000 American soldiers on the Turkish soil.
High-level officials of the U.S. administration have warned that Turkey would lose a multi-billion aid package pledged by the United States to compensate losses that the Turkish economy will suffer as a result of decreasing tourism revenues, rising oil prices and capital flight that would be entailed by a war in the neighboring Iraq.
The U.S. officials also said Turkey would not have a say in northern Iraq, a region where Turkey fears Kurdish groups could set up their own state benefiting from a war on Baghdad.
In weeks-long talks, Turkish and U.S. officials have agreed to act together in arming and disarming Kurdish groups that de facto control northern Iraq. Under the deal, Turkey was also allowed to send tens of thousands of troops to the region as a precaution against the establishment of a Kurdish state and to stop a possible refugee flow to its territory.
These deals came under question after the parliamentary rejection last Sunday.
The Pentagon has drawn up alternative plans for a "northern front," but administration officials still hold out hope for a new parliamentary vote as soon as next week after the head of the powerful military made a strong call on Wednesday to allow U.S. troops on its territory.
Ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday that a second vote on the motion may not be possible before a U.N. Security Council decision.
US offers Turkey short-term loans on Iraq
In a sign that Washington still has hopes for a northern front to be launched from Turkey, the United States was considering changes to its aid plan for Turkey.
Negotiators from both countries have also been discussing northern Iraq and a second government motion, if it ever comes, is expected to have a focus on Turkish troop deployment in northern Iraq, reports said.
"We cannot remain a bystander to developments... while there is a fire in our neighbor," said Prime Minister Abdullah Gul Friday and added the government will work to get out of the Iraqi crisis with minimum loss, in another sign that plans to assist the United States in a war in Iraq have not been abandoned.
Under the new economic aid plan, Turkey could get direct U.S. government loans rather than loan guarantees, including $8.5 billion for six months and up to $24 billion longer term if it reverses course and grants American troops access to its bases for an invasion of Iraq, U.S. sources familiar with the package told the Reuters.
Direct loans from the Bush administration would help ensure that Turkey does not run into trouble rolling over its short-term debt on its own, said the sources, who gave some new details of a package that has been hammered out over months.
Stepping up pressure on recession-hit Turkey to act, the Bush administration has warned that Parliament would forfeit the aid package if it balks at the deployment.
If Parliament reverses course and backs the U.S. deployment, the administration would ask the Republican-led Congress to provide $6 billion in direct aid, $4 billion of which would secure loans totaling as much as $24 billion.
As a down-payment on congressional action, the United States would provide Turkey with an $8.5 billion bridge loan from the Treasury's Exchange Stabilization Fund, contingent on the Turkish Parliament approving a budget endorsed by the International Monetary Fund.
Sources said the bridge loan would be repaid in a relatively short time, possibly as little as six months, using the proceeds of the longer-term loans once approved by Congress.
The longer-term loans could also come directly from the U.S. government, though no final decisions have been taken, sources said.
The Bush administration had initially planned to provide Turkey with loan guarantees -- essentially U.S. government backing for loans that Turkey would secure from private banks. "But it's unclear whether Turkey can get the loans from the markets," one source said.
Sources say the administration initially balked at Turkey's request for a bridge loan drawing from the Exchange Stabilization Fund. Critics inside the administration and on Capitol Hill asserted that the country was not currently facing a major currency crisis.
But with U.S. naval ships waiting off Turkish shores and Pentagon war planners anxious for a decision, sources said the administration reconsidered.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said this week, "The particular package that we've been talking to them about was predicated on assistance and cooperation in any plan for the use of force against Iraq ... We'll continue to talk to them as we move forward."
But other U.S. officials said Turkey could still receive some financial aid.
Tapping into the $38 billion Exchange Stabilization Fund, set up in 1934 primarily for emergency use to defend the dollar, is bound to spark controversy on Capitol Hill.
Over objections from some Republicans, the fund was used in 1995 by former President Bill Clinton to bail out Mexico. Bush used it himself to help Uruguay last year.
U.S. congressmen were in Ankara Friday in an attempt to persuade Turkish leaders to allow American troops in.
"Our troops will be safer if they have access to Turkish bases during a possible war with Iraq," Whitfield, a Republican, said before leaving Wednesday. "Our military's first choice would be the threat of an attack from the north through Turkey and from the south through Kuwait."
Whitfield and Rep. Robert Wexler, a Florida Democrat, met Prime Minister Abdullah Gul, President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, Parliament officials and AK Party leaders.
Whitfield and Wexler plan to stay in Turkey through to Sunday, the day of by-elections that would pave the way for AK Party leader Erdogan to become prime minister.
The party officials have said that a new vote could take up to three weeks, and analysts says a vote is unlikely before the new government is formed.
Ankara - TDN with wire dispatches
I saw films of that yesterday (or the day before) on Fox News. Turkish teenagers were applauding as our tanks and men rolled by.
Yes indeed, folks. We are in the "Twilight Zone", where hugely contradictory situation reports coexist and remain to fester in our minds. All is needed is one question from the press, along the lines of "Excuse me, but what exactly is going on with all the unloading in Turkey anyway?"
Anybody else out there find this completely bizarre?
Thank you. Your explanation makes a lot of sense.
I thought I understood that Turkey's parlament wasn't going to look at this again for another 10 days? like March 17th. too late
Yeah. Maybe I'm a 'conceited jerk', but I have to wonder: Did they actually think their "no" vote would stop our war on terror?
Lay off the Turks. The army is helping us any way they can.
The government is in a bind: most of the people are against the war. Now, it appears that the most trusted institution in Turkey, the Army, has made its feelings known. Look for things to get a tad easier for us there.
The Turks understand the stakes. You need to understand that the Turks, whose troops were so ferocious that the North Korean Army was literally afraid to attack them in 1951, have fought beside us in the past. They'll be with us when the chips are down.
Be Seeing You,
"Their no vote" was in the minority. The majority of Turk parliment reps. voted yes.
We have plenty of jackhole backstabber reps. in this country too. I assume you were only referring to the Turk reps. who voted "no".
I still would like to know if the media's hype of this situation as a shake down of us by Turkey was intentional or simply because they are ill-informed. In the case of CNN, which has covered your part of the world for some time, I am inclined to believe it is malice, rather than ignorance.
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