NEW YORK (Sep. 25)
Turkish Foreign Minister Tansu Ciller has reassured Jewish leaders that Turkey would continue to steer a moderate democratic course and honor its agreements with Israel.
But Ciller, the former prime minister and leader of the secular True Path Party, said Turkey may not be able to resist extremist pressures unless the West does more to show its support and help it cope with debt sustained during the Persian Gulf War.
Ciller spoke to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations amid a climate of concern over the recent election of Necmettin Erbakan, leader of the Islamist Welfare Party, as prime minister.
Erbakan had been a vocal critic of the growing cooperation between Turkey and Israel and has recently made overtures to both Iraq and Iran. A $23 billion gas deal with Iran particularly sparked the ire of Washington.
But Ciller, who is also the deputy premier and supported the deal, told reporters after the closed meeting that Turkey remains steadfast in its adherence to Western and democratic values. And she said that under a power- sharing arrangement with Erbakan, any change in policy requires her sign-off.
Meanwhile, she reiterated Turkey’s belief that Iran supports the Kurdistan Workers Party, which she said Turkey fights as a terrorist movement, and said Iran therefore “can’t be considered a dependable friend.”
She said Turkey also remains worried about “linkage” between Iran and Syria with a corridor through Iraq that could pose a danger to it as well as to Israel. Turkey treats Syria as an active sponsor of terrorists.
Turkey has been seeking to establish a security zone in northern Iraq to prevent attacks by the Kurdish group in southeast Turkey.
Meanwhile, Ciller said the European Union’s continuing refusal to admit Turkey sends a dangerous signal to the Turkish people that they are not accepted by the West because they are not Christian.
She also complained that the West has not helped the Turkish economy recover after the $27 billion debt incurred during the Persian Gulf crisis.
Ciller was scheduled to meet with Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy on Thursday to talk about defense, water and energy projects.