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 Tuesday, 21 January, 2003, 16:17 GMT
Turkey warns against Iraq war
Turkish university student in Istanbul on Monday
There is stiff Turkish resistance to hosting US troops
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of Turkey's governing party, has called for moderation in the US-led "war on terror" and for a peaceful resolution of the Iraq crisis.

Mr Erdogan's remarks came as Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis confirmed that Ankara would host a high-level regional meeting on Thursday to try to press for a peaceful conclusion to the brewing conflict on its border.

We call on the conscience of the world so that the process which began as the struggle against terrorism is not blown out of proportion

Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Justice and Development Party leader
The pronouncements followed Monday's visit to Turkey by General Richard Myers - Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff - to try to pin down what role Turkey would be willing to play in an eventual attack on Baghdad.

Although Turkey is a close ally of the United States, the newly-elected Justice and Development party (AK) fears that allowing US forces to be stationed on Turkish soil will incense its anti-war population and may cause regional unrest.

'Demands for peace'

Mr Erdogan made his comments at a parliamentary meeting of his party on Tuesday.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Erdogan must try to steer a balanced course
"We call on the conscience of the world so that the process which began as the struggle against terrorism is not blown out of proportion," he said.

"We believe that all the global decision-makers must heed the increasing demands for peace all over the world for the future of humanity and civilisation."

He referred specifically to the recent anti-war protests in the US and Britain "filling city squares, demanding peace".

Balancing act

On his visit to Ankara on Monday, General Myers denied that he was pressuring Turkey to commit to playing a role in any invasion of Iraq and said he was "sure" of Turkish support.

However, recent reports have suggested Washington is becoming impatient with Ankara's failure to consent to allowing up to 80,000 US troops to use Turkey as a springboard for such an attack.

Kurd rebel guerrillas
Turkey does not want to risk unrest among Kurds on either side of the border
Our correspondent in Istanbul, Jonny Dymond, says the Turkish Government is wary of the economic damage and regional upheaval - especially among fractious Kurdish populations on both sides of Turkey's south-eastern border with Iraq - that war might bring.

Mr Erdogan said Turkey was "pushing on with its active foreign policy" to try to avert war.

Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis announced one such initiative on Tuesday - the meeting on Thursday of foreign ministers from Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Syria.

The ministers are expected to urge Iraq to comply with UN demands and reiterate hopes for a peaceful settlement to the crisis.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  Soli Ozel, Istanbul's Bigli University
"This is a war that (Turkey) doesn't want"

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21 Jan 03 | Media reports
07 Jan 03 | Middle East
05 Jan 03 | Middle East
04 Jan 03 | Middle East
20 Jan 03 | Europe
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