Turkey demanding US assurances in return for deployment, over-fly rights

13 March 2003
Turkey is demanding further assurances from the US before allowing either a deployment of troops or over-flying of its airspace by US aircraft, according to a report in the Washington Post on 13 March. Turkish officials are said to believe that their approval is sufficiently important to US war plans that Washington will delay an invasion of Iraq until it is granted. US officials say that this is a miscalculation and that the war can go ahead without Turkish help. Ankara is holding out for guarantees on the rights of the Turkomen minority in Iraq and on a Turkish voice in the shaping of post-war Iraq. In a recent interview on Turkish television, US State Department under-secretary for political affairs, Marc Grossman, said that the latter was what Turkey risked losing by not co-operating (MEED 5:3:03). 'I think that Turkey loses a chance to be involved [in the shaping of a new Iraq] in a more significant way,' he said.

Leader of the ruling Justice & Development Party (AKP), Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and President Bush spoke by telephone on 10 March when Erdogan expressed the Turkish demands. He also failed to commit to allowing US aircraft to fly over Turkish airspace. This would be a serious blow, as the Pentagon plans to use warplanes stationed at the southern Turkish Incirlik airbase and on aircraft carriers in the eastern Mediterranean in an attack on Iraq. The alternative would be flying over Jordan and Israel. Washington had also planned, if no agreement could be reached on deploying troops in Turkey, to fly the soldiers directly into northern Iraq. An aid package worth billions of dollars is on offer if Turkey agrees to US demands. A second vote in parliament, which rejected the deployment on 1 March, will not be called until Erdogan has finished forming a new government, expected to take until sometime next week.

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