Ankara Awaits US Answer on Loan Rights Issue

ANKARA (Turkish Daily News)– US State Department spokesman James Rubin said on Monday that the department was still working out the "final modalities," in response to a Turkish Daily News question concerning its reported "opposition" to a General Dynamics deal involving 140 special vehicles–including 11-ton–armored patrollers for the Turkish police. "It’s a complicated set of decisions; it’s not a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question," commented Rubin.

What I can say is that Ex-Im Bank asked for the State Department’s opinion regarding the effect of the Leahy amendment on a proposal for the export-import [Bank] to provide a $38 million loan guarantee for the sale of 140 non-lethal APVs–armored personnel vehicles–from a US company–AV Technology [a General Dynamics company]–to the Turkish National Police," said Rubin. He added that the department had reached a decision and "preserved a sale for a US company."

Explaining further–Rubin noted: "We examined information about the human rights practices of Turkish police in provinces slated to receive these vehicles. We have discussed the information we’ve examined with the US company–with Turkish authorities and interested members of Congress. In keeping with our strong concern for human rights–we have reached a decision which complies with US law. We have maintained our engagement with the Turkish National Police on human rights issues. We have also preserved a sale for a US company. We are still working out the final modalities of this deal–and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time."

The State Department’s "opposition" to the deal was reported for the first time last week on Dec. 31 in a Washington Post news story under the headline "New Human Rights Law Triggers Policy Debate," written by Dana Priest. The article said that–"The State Department this month [December 1998] rejected a request from defense giant General Dynamics Corp. for US financing to help Turkey buy armored vehicles for police operating in provinces where state-sponsored torture ‘is a long-standing and pervasive practice,’ according to an internal State Department document."

The State Department’s reported opposition and the reported divergence of opinions within the administration was triggered by a 1996 law–sponsored by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (Democrat-Vermont) and expanded in 1998. This law prohibits US funds from being used to aid units of foreign security forces that have been involved in human rights violations.

The Post article explained that this is the first serious test of this human rights law passed by Congress. The article also noted that the vehicles will still go to the police groups in all of the provinces cited in the original deal. In areas where US loan guarantees are prohibited–General Dynamics has agreed to finance the sale without the US Ex-Im Bank loan guarantee.

The Leahy law is a contentious issue and promises to show itself in future deals with Turkey and other countries accused of human rights violations. Since the law does not spell out who exactly is responsible for collecting the information necessary to make a compliance decision–it is foreseeable that interdepartmental confusion could halt sales of any kind of US-funded military training and equipment–or of US loan guarantees for the purchase of equipment.

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