WASHINGTON – The United States and Turkey held productive discussions over a proposed multibillion-dollar aid package that would be tied to support for a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the State Department said.
The Turkish delegation, led by Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis, will return to Ankara over the weekend to consult with the government.
Yakis told Turkish reporters that hesitant Turkish lawmakers would be more inclined to approve the stationing of U.S. troops in Turkey if the Bush administration were to approve the aid package before Feb. 18.
That is the day that Parliament is scheduled to take up the issue.
According to the semiofficial Anatolia news agency, Yakis said the United States will have to make other arrangements if the legislation does not pass.
If Turkey doesn't give approval, "We don't expect an operation against Iraq to be totally given up," he said. "They (the United States) will do it with or without Turkey."
Heading into Friday's talks, the two sides were billions of dollars apart, The Washington Post said, quoting a senior Turkish official.
Turkey had asked the NATO alliance for protection against a potential retaliatory Iraqi attack across their frontier.
NATO turned down the request, but Germany and the Netherlands agreed to send Patriot missiles to Turkey despite NATO's decision.