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Albright says U.S. not happy about Turkey's Islamic drift


U.S. also critical on Cyprus and human rights

February 12, 1997
Web posted at: 9:36 p.m. EDT (2136 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said Wednesday the United States is distressed by the drift of Turkey away from secularism, but values the country as an ally.

Testifying before Congress, Albright said she had communicated that message to Turkish Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan. She said she also told him that the United States does not approve of his policy on human rights.


Albright said Erbakan's assumption of power has led to changes in Turkish foreign policy, but she did not elaborate. It is well known, however, that Erbakan is suspicious of the United States and has traveled to a number of Arab nations, including Iran and Libya.

"The evolution of Turkey is important to us," Albright said. "It is important for it to continue to be a secular country," she said. She added that Turkey "is of great importance to us strategically."

Albright met with Erbakan in Turkey last July, after Erbakan's Islamic Refah party came to power.

U.S. critical of Turkey on Cyprus and human rights

The United States criticized Turkey recently for its threat to take military action in Cyprus to stop the Greek Cypriot government from deploying anti-aircraft missiles. It also took Turkey to task last month in its annual report on human rights, saying the situation there is getting worse rather than better.


Turkey's desire to join the European Union is another issue. It is unlikely to be admitted because its economy is weak, and the other members fear cheap Turkish labor would flood the job market.

The United States has hinted, however, that if Turkey were to allow Cyprus to be reunified and admitted to the EU, Turkey might be admitted as well.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded the island after a coup engineered by the military junta then ruling Greece. Turkey has some 30,000 troops on Cyprus.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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