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THE JERUSALEM POST

December 10, 1997 11 Kislev 5758

Turkey Using Israel to Access US Arms

By Arieh O'Sullivan

ANKARA (December 10) - Israel is serving as a comfortable alternative for transferring advanced weapons and military know-how which the US has been reluctant to give to Turkey due to its alleged abuse of human rights.

So far the deals have included night-vision equipment and anti-missile systems employed in helicopters used in attacks against Kurdish rebels, Turkish defense sources said. But Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai's visit has pushed forward prospects for even greater transfers of technology and weapons.

"This historic visit has achieved its goal: to widen the base of cooperation with the Turks," Mordechai said. "I certainly describe the relationship between us and the Turks as the development of a strategic relationship. All this is with the backing and coordination of the US."

One of the reasons Turkey is so supportive of the strategic alliance is its belief that the road to Washington goes through Jerusalem. Israeli defense officials said that in meetings at the Pentagon, they act as Turkey's "advocate" in its quest for arms.

Turkey's human-rights record, however, has been criticized and has led Washington to require it to receive preapproval for all military orders it places with US arms suppliers. This has resulted in the cancellation of several orders after Congress denied approval on human-rights grounds.

Five US defense companies reportedly have written letters to the White House asking for a relaxation of these conditions. And the US recently has allowed the sale of three frigates to the Turkish navy, signifying that the restrictions may be ebbing. Still Washington is sensitive to the pressures from the strong Greek lobby and is also pushing for Ankara to improve its alleged human rights abuses in its crackdown on the Kurds.

"Turkey, which was in the past on the front line against the Soviet superpower, found itself less needed, and disappointment caused it to look for other sources," said Defense Ministry adviser David Ivry. "It found in Israel a nation with advanced technology and capabilities."

"Israel to this day has had a policy of not intervening in any internal matters of any country in the world. We don't like it when others interfere in our internal matters. For this reason, our policy doesn't touch on such matters [as human rights]."

Israeli defense officials said that the US had helped set up large industrial bases in Turkey for the production or assembly of fighter planes and armored vehicles.

But the moment the Turks wanted technological know-how, the Americans balked.

"They are a superpower and want to keep that to themselves," one official said.

Israeli officials said they are competing to be the subcontractor for a $3.5 billion deal to build attack helicopters. Israel also is offering to upgrade Turkey's M-60 main battle tank and is to submit a tender to produce the Merkava MkIII tank. Next week, the Turks are to decide between an Israeli and a German company in a tender to replace its army's assault rifles. "There is a possibility of further cooperation with Israel Aircraft Industries," Mordechai said, adding that the joint production of the Arrow missile could not be ruled out.

In previous meetings with Turkish defense officials, Mordechai said Israel is prepared to "go up a notch" in transferring weapons technology.

Ivry, a former air force commander and Defense Ministry director-general, agreed.

"We are prepared to open technology" to the Turks, he said. "We are not talking of operational cooperation. We are talking of technologies and systems. This is where we want to cooperate."




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