INTRODUCTION: Turkey's military head of state, General Kenan Evren, has reaffirmed his country's commitment to the west.
GV West European Parliamentarians at Ataturk's Mausoleum, walking behind soldiers carrying wreath (2 shots)
SV INTERIOR Turkish Foreign Minister Ilter Turkmen laying wreath as delegation stands to attention (6 shots)
SV INTERIOR European delegates at defence briefing (4 shots)
SV Italian parliamentarian Stefano Cavalieri arriving for meeting with Mr. Turkmen
SV & CU Cavalieri and Turkmen seated at conference table (3 shots)
GV & SV PAN Delegates arriving for meeting with Turkish Defence Minister Haluk Bayulken (2 shots)
SV Defence Minister Bayulken seated and talking with delegates (3 shots)
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Background: INTRODUCTION: Turkey's military head of state, General Kenan Evren, has reaffirmed his country's commitment to the west. Speaking to a group of visiting parliamentarians from the West European Union Assembly on Tuesday (24 February), General Evren said Turkey was an inseparable part of democratic and free Europe.
SYNOPSIS: Turkey's alignment with Europe dates back nearly 60 years when under the leadership of Kemal Ataturk the republic was born and Turkey turned from Ottoman traditions to European modernity.
When Foreign Minister Ilter Turkmen laid a wreath at the Ataturk Mausoleum under the solemn gaze of the visiting parliamentarians, it was more than an act of deference to an esteemed leader. Ataturk's republic has more than once been threatened by military coups, and since the last one in September, 1980, the West has shown increasing concern about the survival chances of Turkish democracy.
General Evren, the head of Turkey's military regime has repeatedly said his government was only temporary; a means to deliver the country from guerrilla warfare and prepare for general elections. The defence briefing the European visitors attended will almost certainly have stressed the transitory nature of Turkey's military leadership. Turkey is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), its strategic importance having been thrown into sharp focus by recent event in the Middle East.
Italian MP Stefano Cavalieri led the European delegation to a meeting with Foreign Minister Turkmen. Italy is a fellow south-flank NATO member. But while the Turkish army is ill-equipped with vintage Korean war armour, and wants new arms, the West is reluctant to make supplies available to the military leaders.
Defence Minister Haluk Bayulken invited the European parliamentarians to a briefing on Turkey's contribution to the defence of the Mediterranean. Turkey hopes to receive almost 1,500 million U.S. dollars in credit this year. But credit granted for arms totals only some 400 million dollars from the United States and 350 million dollars over four years from West Germany.
Defence Minister Bayulken recently demonstrated to fellow NATO generals his army participating in exercises against a mock attack on the eastern front. The message was clear. Turkey feels exposed and neglected and is seeking a more tangible alignment with NATO particularly, and Western Europe in general. The visiting Europeans will have had that message reaffirmed.