Turkey Joins the Fight against Terrorism

By Maria Kalafati | July 7, 2008 | 8:10 PM EDT

Athens (CNSNews.com) - Turkey, a close ally of the United States and the only Muslim member of NATO, stands with the United States after last week's terrorist attacks, and the U.S. may call upon its ally to open up its military bases to U.S. troops.

NATO has long regarded Turkey as a buffer between three Muslim countries to its southeast (Iraq, Iran and Syria), and Turkish leaders have already pledged full support for likely joint NATO action under the alliance's collective defense clause.

This week the heads of the Turkish and Spanish governments, Bulent Ecevit and Jose Maria Aznar, issued a joint declaration of solidarity with the United States in the fight against terrorism.

Aznar, on a short visit to Turkey, joined his counterpart at a press conference in Istanbul where he declared that terrorism is the enemy of the world. He said both Spain and Turkey had suffered at the hands of terrorists over the years.

In their declaration, the two prime ministers said they shared the suffering of the American people and denounced last week's attacks on "the United States, its citizens and human values." They called for "joint action based on international solidarity to eradicate the sources and sanctuaries" of terrorism.

However, there are fears that any military action would leave Turkey in a situation similar to the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War. Ankara, which backed the strike against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, estimates its losses at some $35 billion due to a cutback in border trade with its southern neighbor.

"In the current atmosphere, our friends can better understand the rising importance of Turkey" Economy minister Kemal Dervis told reporters and added " But we should reject the logic of Turkey demanding the costs of its participation."

Turkey hosts a force of some 40 British and US planes in the Incirlik air base in its south, and it is these planes that patrol the no-fly zone imposed on northern Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War. During the Gulf War, Turkey allowed the base to be used in the air campaign against Iraq.

Meanwhile, the economic effects of last Tuesday's attacks in USA are already being felt in Turkey. Economists warned that the threat of war is likely to affect tourism, as well as internal consumption. Economic growth had been expected to improve slightly by 2002.

The Turkish economy plunged into crisis in February when the government floated the lira to contain a liquidity squeeze, causing the currency to drop massively against the dollar. In May, Ankara began implementing a strict program of economic reforms in return for multibillion-dollar aid from the IMF and World Bank.