Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem said in Washington Wednesday, March 28, that his country broadly favored US proposals for revamped sanctions against Iraq, which include measures to clamp down on smuggled exports of Iraqi oil.
"We have always thought that there should be strict compliance with UN resolutions, and that in the meantime there should be an easing of economic sanctions," Cem told reporters after addressing the Washington Institute for Near East Studies.
"I am quite happy that the new (US) administration will look into those sanctions, and I hope that they will come up with some measures, some understanding which will be an assistance, a contribution, to those Iraqi children, and to the people of this region," he said. As the US proposals currently stood, "There isn't much (in them) which would make things more difficult for Turkey," he said.
A revision to existing sanctions had been discussed when he met with US Secretary of State Colin Powell in Brussels last month, but the US proposals had yet to be defined in detail, he added.
Cem was in Washington heading a delegation of officials who he said had discussed the US proposals — and specifically measures to combat the smuggling of Iraqi oil across the Turkish border — in meetings Wednesday with their counterparts in the State Department. The minister himself is due to meet Friday with US Secretary of State Colin Powell.
The US proposals are premised on the ability of the UN to clamp down on Iraqi oil exports leaving the country without UN approval, via Iran, Jordan, Syria and Turkey. "To close all smuggling outlets... is something that we are supporting," Cem said.
In addition to UN monitors in neighboring countries supervising trade with Iraq, the US plan also proposes to draw up a list of oil companies officially allowed to buy Iraqi crude. With tightened controls over Baghdad's trade and oil revenues, the plan would allow Iraq's neighbors to buy Iraqi oil at discounted prices.
Cem cited the figure of $40 billion for the amount of revenue his country has lost over the last ten years due to loss of trade with its neighbor to the south. And he said that the dramatic economic slowdown that resulted in parts of southern Turkey — already poor areas — had fueled "terrorist" and separatist activity.
He said young Iraqis were going without adequate nutrition and education, and "they grow up feeling hatred for everyone around them." "And these children will be running Iraq — a very important country in the Middle East," an immediate neighbor of Turkey's, in 10 or 20 years time, he said.
Turkey recently strengthened its diplomatic ties with Iraq by reopening its embassy in Baghdad. Earlier this month, Turkish Trade Secretary Kursad Tuzman said Ankara wanted to boost trade with Baghdad to pre-1990 levels. — (AFP, Washington)
by Eileen Byrne
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)