Ecevit Goes Home Empty Handed

WASHINGTON (Reuters)–Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit put a long list of grievances to the United States on Tuesday and said President Bill Clinton was sympathetic on textile quotas and on Turkish losses from years of UN sanctions against Iraq.

Clinton–speaking before the White House talks began–hailed a new "atmosphere of hope" for Turkey and noted the trend toward warmer Turkish-Greek relations.

Ecevit said in a speech later that the talks went very well. "They took place in a very friendly atmosphere and it opened new vistas of cooperation for us," he added.

But the Turkish prime minister also had little substantial to show in the way of US help for the Turkish economy–the main objective of a visit which Turks are watching closely.

And the gap remained wide on the arrangemen’s for resuming talks between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots on a settlement for the divided Mediterranean island.

The Group of Eight big industrial countries wants the negotiations to resume in the autumn without preconditions but Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash insists on recognition at the negotiating table as a head of state.

A US official said: "We believe that we should move forward to talks under UN auspices with no preconditions and that is the point that the president made to the prime minister in the discussions. I think what we’ve seen today is clearly an openness on the part of the prime minister to discuss in detailed ways that we could move forward toward that."

Clinton’s newly appointed special envoy on Cyprus–Al Moses–will go to the region next week–he added.

But Ecevit–who ordered Turkish troops to invade Cyprus in 1974 after a coup in Nicosia backed by colonels in Athens–firmly backed Denktash’s position–saying the existence of two states on the island was undeniable.

"The reality must be accepted that there are two separate independent states on Cyprus," he told an audience of diplomats–reporters and analysts.

He quoted Clinton as saying no solution in Cyprus could restore the pre-invasion status quo. "This was a very encouraging and understanding remark–an historic pronouncement," he added–without elaboration.

Ecevit’s government had hoped the Washington visit would bring some relief for the Turkish economy–which has suffered from the sanctions against Iraq–the financial crisis in Russia and finally the devastating earthquake of August.

But it had already given up hope of obtaining a US government guarantee for housing bonds for reconstruction or the cancellation of some of Turkey’s military debt.

Ecevit said he brought up the military debt–the losses from the Iraqi sanctions–which deprived Turkey of a major market–and negotiations on a larger textile quota.

He said the interest rate on the military debt had risen to 10.8 percent from 3 percent. "We have mentioned our dissatisfactions with this situation in our talks here and I hope that they have been well received," he added.

On Iraq he said: "We have paid a very heavy price and I got the impression that President Clinton admits that this is not fair so I hope that our relations with Iraq should be to some degree eased so that our economic losses be compensated."

Ecevit was more hopeful about the textile quotas–which the United States agreed to renegotiate to help Turkey overcome the economic effects of the earthquake.

"We asked his (Clinton’s) contribution to a decision to increase the quotas … and I believe I got the impression that President Clinton will give the green light for a considerable increase."

US officials who declined to be identified said Clinton was receptive to Ecevit’s views on textiles and some flexibility could be found within the current quotas.

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