Turk Minister Urges Peaceful Iraq Solution; Wolfowitz Says Chances Best With Allied Help
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
ANKARA, Turkey, Dec. 4, 2002 Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis pledged support Dec. 3 for U.S. and coalition efforts to separate Iraq from its weapons of mass destruction, but urged that all peaceful means be tried first before war.
Yakis, flanked by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, spoke to reporters at his official residence here. He was involved in Dec. 3 talks with U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, in town to discuss Iraq and other issues with Turkish leaders.
Acknowledging that coalition military force might be necessary ultimately, he noted his government's priority is that "no stone should be left unturned" in searching for a peaceful resolution concerning Iraq's weapons arsenal.
If Hussein doesn't comply with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441, he said, then a martial solution may be necessary. "If it comes to that, then of course we'll cooperate with the United States, because it's a big ally and we have excellent relations with the United States," he added.
Yakis implied Turkey could allow U.S. and coalition aircraft use of his country's airspace in the event of war with Iraq and provide use of certain military bases and facilities. Turkey already permits coalition use of its Incirlik Air Base for Northern No-fly Zone enforcement patrols over Iraq.
The Turkish foreign minister seemed less certain about the presence of large numbers of U.S. ground troops in his country, explaining that Turks might find that hard to accept. Nonetheless, Yakis acknowledged that Turkish and U.S. authorities have consulted on the assumption that war against Iraq might eventually be necessary.
He noted his government's position that a second U.N. resolution be passed declaring hostilities against Hussein's regime if he doesn't comply with Resolution 1441. Yakis didn't project concern that the United States and Turkey disagree on the point -- even staunch friends might not always completely agree on every topic, he said.
At a Dec. 3 press conference following a two-hour meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Abdulla Gul and other officials, Wolfowitz said the chances of a peaceful outcome are best "the more cooperation we have from our partners and allies -- and Turkey is clearly one of our strongest partners and allies."
He termed the meeting "very constructive," and noted Turkish-American cooperation can be key to achieving that peaceful outcome. Further, he said, disarming Hussein would be a huge step toward achieving regional peace and stability.
A new Turkish parliamentary government was elected Nov. 3, and Wolfowitz said he was heartened by Turkey's strong stance against Hussein's regime. The government, he said, "understands, fundamentally, what we're trying to get at in terms of presenting Saddam Hussein with a unified world that will allow us to have some chance of achieving the disarmament of Iraq by peaceful means."
Early signals sent by the new Turkish government, Wolfowitz noted, "are very positive for Turkey and for Turkey's relations with the West," including Europe and the United States.
Omer Celik, political adviser to Turkey's majority Justice and Development Party Chairman Egemen Bagis, noted in a separate interview with reporters traveling with Wolfowitz that the Iraqi people need to be freed from the yoke of Saddam's regime "and should be helped to get to a real democracy and Western standards."
If Saddam were deposed, Celik posited, democratic principles would have to be written into a new Iraqi constitution or otherwise, he emphasized, "There would be another dictator there."
Wolfowitz jets from Ankara to Brussels, Belgium, today for talks at NATO Headquarters and is slated to return to Washington in the late evening.