Published March 13, 2003
ANKARA, Turkey – A U.N. vote backing the United States against Iraq would make it easier for the Turkish parliament to pass a resolution allowing in U.S. troops, an adviser to the incoming prime minister said Thursday.
Also Thursday, the prime minister-designate, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, met with the U.S. ambassador and later spoke with Vice President Dick Cheney about Iraq. Officials in Erdogan's party and U.S. officials would not immediately comment on the phone conversation.
Washington is pressing Turkey for a quick vote in parliament to allow U.S. troops, who would open a northern front against Iraq in a war. In southern Turkey, U.S. soldiers are building an air terminal and unloading supplies to move quickly if the troop agreement passes.
But Turks are overwhelmingly against an Iraq war, and parliament earlier this month came up just four votes short of allowing the U.S. deployment.
"If there is Security Council approval it will be easier for Turkey," said Egemen Bagis, a member of parliament and an adviser to Erdogan.
There is stiff opposition at the United Nations to a U.S.-backed resolution paving the way for war, and a U.N. decision could be delayed until next week.
Turkey's parliament is scheduled to meet throughout the weekend, but it was not clear if it will discuss the troop agreement.
Erdogan was expected to submit his proposed Cabinet to President Ahmet Necdet Sezer on Friday. Parliament would then discuss the government's program. A vote of confidence is expected early next week.
Erdogan has hinted that he would push for a new troop resolution. But in a tense phone call Monday with President Bush, he refused to commit on when he would submit such a measure to parliament, a source said. Bush was disappointed in the conversation, added the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.
A senior official in Erdogan's Justice and Development Party said Bush also asked Erdogan to open Turkish air space in the event of war. Erdogan said such authorization would have to be approved by parliament, the official said.
The discussion of air space rights raises the possibility that Turkey may not approve a troop basing agreement. The original agreement that failed in parliament included provisions for air space rights.
The United States would need to use Turkish air space to ferry troops to northern Iraq or carry out air strikes.
If Turkey rejects the basing, it stands to lose a $15 billion aid package designed to cushion Turkey's economy from the impact of a war and could jeopardize relations with Washington.
Erdogan, who was elected to parliament Sunday, held talks Thursday with the chief of the Turkish military, Gen. Hilmi Ozkok.
Erdogan says he wants more assurances from the United States regarding Turkey's role in the future of Iraq. Turkey fears that a war could lead to an independent Kurdish state, which could boost aspirations of Turkey's Kurdish rebels.
In southeastern Turkey, U.S. soldiers have transformed an unfinished terminal of the civilian airport in Gaziantep into a military base with armed guards and razor wire. Renovations at the southeastern air bases of Diyarbakir and Batman for use by U.S. fighter jets and helicopters were also under way.