Secretary of State Warren Christopher asked Turkish leaders Saturday to cooperate with a detailed American proposal to help end widespread human rights abuses in the country, he and other administration officials said.
At the same time, the United States announced that it would provide Turkey with $336 million in aircraft and other military equipment."Turkey lives in a tough neighborhood," Christopher said.
Turkish leaders told Christopher that they would be willing to work with the United States but made no specific commitments on the plan, senior Turkish officials said.
Acting Prime Minister Erdal Inonu strongly defended Turkey's human rights record, telling reporters, "Today I would challenge any country to come up and say they have a better human rights record than ourselves."
The State Department's 1992 global human rights report said political murders and extra-judicial killings in Turkey increased last year. It also documented cases of torture, rape and killing of detainees, disappearances of political opponents, arbitrary arrests and detention and denial of fair trial.
Christopher also indicated that the United States would reward better behavior by Turkey, one of America's closest allies, with economic cooperation and favors. He and other senior officials rejected the suggestion, made over the years by human rights organizations, that Turkey be punished with designation as a "gross" violator of human rights, which by law could make it ineligible for American military aid.
The interchange on human rights was one element of wide-ranging discussions during Christopher's first official visit here as secretary of state. One subject was Turkey's frustrations with what its leaders perceive as the inaction of NATO in stopping the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
President Suleyman Demirel and other officials told Christopher that they expected the United States to do more to end the 14-month-old war in Bosnia, adding that America's global leadership role was more important now than ever before, senior Turkish officials said.
But Foreign Minister Hikmet Cetin declined to criticize the United States in public, praising the American decision to send 300 peacekeeping troops to Macedonia.
The Turks have offered to join the United States and other NATO countries in the air rescue of peacekeepers guarding the "safe havens" designated by the United Nations, and would be willing to provide troops as peacekeepers in Bosnia. But Christopher said the United Nations does not want any Balkan country to take part for historical reasons. As for Turkish participation in providing air cover, he called it a "NATO decision."
As for the American human rights plan for Turkey, senior administration officials said it has three goals: to work to eliminate torture in Turkey, to improve freedom of expression and to eliminate disappearances and extra-judicial uses of force and killings.