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Talk With Turkish Foreign Minister

Aired February 21, 2003 - 08:23   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now we turn our attention to NATO matters and the issue of Turkey.
Jane Arraf joins us from Ankara this morning with the very latest -- good morning, Jane.


Well, as you know, we've been mired in the issue of whether Turkey will agree to a subject that may determine how and when the United States goes to war, if it goes to war against Iraq. That's the issue of whether Turkey will allow U.S. combat troops to be based here.

Now, we're at the foreign ministry, where there's been a flurry of negotiations and, it sounds like, some news.

We have Turkey's foreign minister with us, Mr. Yaser Yakis, who is going to tell us about the latest developments.

How close are you to an agreement with the U.S.?

YASER YAKIS, TURKISH FOREIGN MINISTER: Of course, we cannot measure with inches how close we are, but I understand that -- I personally feel that we are very close to an understanding on how we are going to cooperate.

ARRAF: An understanding, that would be, as you put it just a few moments ago, a broad agreement, is that correct?

YAKIS: Yes, yes, a broad agreement. Because the points on which we did not yet reach a full consent or mutually agreement are very few.

ARRAF: Now, that sounds pretty optimistic. There is a lot of hesitation here in Turkey and in the U.S. as to whether this actually will go through with the government and with parliament. But...

YAKIS: With government it will go in all circumstances. But our position when we are talking to our American friends was that if we go to the parliament with a weak package, it is more likely that it's going to be defeated, whereas when it is a strong package, then the chances for it being approved will be higher.

ARRAF: Now, are you confident by the end of today you might have assurances on a stronger package that might lead you to announce an agreement? YAKIS: Well, we explained our difficulties to our American friends and the American embassy here is a very active embassy. I'm sure that they have direct contact with the public opinion on the one hand and also with the deputies, on the other hand. They know for themselves how difficult it's going to be if the package is not to the satisfaction of the deputies and everyone. Otherwise, the government doesn't have any difficult to submit it to the parliament.

We have told the American friends of ours, counterparts of ours, that we can submit the motion to the parliament any time they want. But if we do it before we give more content to the cooperation package, the chances for its being rejected will be higher. And both the American side and the Turkish side, the Turkish government, will have, will be negatively affected of it because when it is rejected, it will be closed forever and when it is rejected, the government will be defeated in the parliament.

So this is a loss for both sides.

ARRAF: And just one last quick question. What does this agreement do for Turkey specifically in terms of money and in terms of control over how the war goes?

YAKIS: No, let's, why do you put it what does it bring to Turkey, because I mean it's the cooperation. So we are trying to settle or to act to reach an agreement on how better, how best this cooperation can be conducted. So there are a lot of things that the United States is benefiting from and there are points where Turkey is benefiting from. So it's a cooperation package.

It's not a package of grants from one side to the other. It's a cooperation package. It is, for instance, the package on the military cooperation is composed of a memorandum of understanding or a memorandum, agreed units or whatever it's going to be called ultimately. It's composed of a text of five or six pages with nine annexes and altogether it makes a hundred pages. And the military cooperation. And there is economic cooperation and political cooperation.

So there are areas of cooperation detailed in all these three packages.

ARRAF: Thank you very much, sir.

YAKIS: Thank you.

ARRAF: That was Turkish Prime Minister Yaser Yakis, telling us that he's actually optimistic that there will be agreement reached on allowing U.S. combat troops on Turkish bases, that they have, indeed, reached the broad outlines of a broad agreement on all of the outstanding issues.

Details still to be worked out, but optimistic of that broad agreement -- Paula.

ZAHN: So, Jane, I just heard what the foreign minister had to say and I guess what people are wondering here is where the compromise is going to come from? The president has made it very clear he's not going to change the numbers in the package, and yet Secretary of State Powell hinted yesterday at doing something creative.

Do we have any idea what that is?

ARRAF: We do. Now, as you just heard, on the Turkish side, they don't really want to focus on the money aspect, but that is, obviously, a very important part of it. And while the numbers don't seem to have changed significantly -- we're still talking about something in the range of $6 billion in grants and, sorry, yes, in grants and up to $20 billion in loan guarantees -- there are creative ways to play around with those figures in terms of how Turkey would use that money and how that's structured. That's something that has been discussed and at the focus of negotiations.

But a big part of this is...

YAKIS: But if you...

ARRAF: I'm sorry, Mr. Yakis?

YAKIS: Actually, the figures are not correct, so if you wish for the actual figures I would like...

ARRAF: Yes, please. We would very much appreciate it if you would give us the figures.

YAKIS: It is not $6 billion grant plus something. It is a figure for as a grant, part of which could be transformed into long- term credit. So it is not the one grant plus credit. So part of this, if it is, let's say, $2 billion, $1 billion will be grant and the second $1 billion could be, on the Turkish side, if Turkish side asks us to be converted into long-term credit, this we'll be able to do it.

So it's not one something plus the other.

ARRAF: So there's some flexibility.


ARRAF: And the total package is how much?

YAKIS: It is, we will know it when the figure is agreed upon.


YAKIS: But it's not the one you mentioned.

ARRAF: So, as you just heard, Paula, some, a lot of flexibility built in there as to how they want to use that money and what form that money will come in. But apart from that, they're still working out the big political issues which, internally and for domestic reasons, are obviously almost equally important to politicians here -- Paula. ZAHN: Jane Arraf.


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