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Turkey: Split in NATO Will Affect Alliance's Credibility - 2003-02-13


Turkey's foreign minister says the split in NATO over helping his country in the event of war with Iraq has damaged alliance's credibility but will not affect Turkish security. The Turkish minister, Yasar Yakis, held talks Thursday with Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Mr. Yakis says he is confident that Turkey's needs in connection with an Iraq conflict will be met by the United States and other allies if necessary on a bilateral basis.

But he says the highly publicized split within NATO over emergency aid to his country has damaged the alliance's credibility and raises the prospect that future crises will leave NATO bogged down in procedural disputes.

Meeting reporters after talks with Secretary of State Powell, the foreign minister minimized the impact of the affair on Turkey's security. "It does not affect Turkey's protection or security," he said. "But it may have affected the credibility of NATO as a whole, so that in the future, when there is such a situation, third parties may believe that NATO will be bogged down into discussions on the procedures and formalities. So this may cause a negative effect on the credibility of NATO. Otherwise, we don't have any problems on the security of Turkey."

Mr. Yakis said one issue in his meeting with Mr. Powell was the United States' use of bases in Turkey for possible operations in neighboring Iraq, though he declined specifics including how many additional U.S. troops, if any, his government might allow in.

His delegation is also discussing a possible U.S. aid package to offset damage a new war in Iraq might cause the Turkish economy. It was reported late last month that the Bush administration had offered a $4 billion package over three years, though Turkish officials described the figure as inadequate.

In his talk with reporters, Mr. Yakis said his government's priority is preserving peace in the region and that he is still hopeful a U.S.-led military operation in Iraq can be avoided.

He also said Turkey had no designs on occupying areas of northern Iraq in the event of conflict. But he did say his government wants a presence there to head off a repeat of what happened in the Gulf war in 1991 when a huge influx of Iraqi refugees flooded into southeastern Turkey.

He said Turkey wants the humanitarian needs of any displaced Iraqis attended to inside Iraqi territory as near as possible to their original homes.

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