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Pakistan, Turkey to improve defense ties

By
AAMIR SHAH

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- Pakistan and Turkey, a member of NATO, discussed on Wednesday measures to strengthen defense cooperation between the two countries, reportedly with U.S. encouragement.

The Turkish defense minister, Sabahattin Cakmakoglu, called on Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in Rawalpindi and discussed the "regional situation and ways and means to further improve defense ties," according to an official statement.

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Pakistan and Turkey have enjoyed good relations for 50 years. After the Oct. 12, 1999, bloodless coup, Musharraf in his first speech declared Kamal Ataturk -- the founder of the Turkish republic -- his role model.

"Pakistan and Turkey are traditional allies and have strong defense and economic ties," said Nasir Zaidi, a political analyst in Islamabad. Zaidi said, "Although Pakistan and Turkey were already cooperating in the defense sector, Turkey, being a member of NATO and close ally of the U.S., is not expected to offer Pakistan any big deal without American consent."

Zaidi was of the view that it is possible that under the new defense ties, Turkey might supply Pakistan spare parts for F-16 fighter planes, which are urgently needed by Pakistan's air force. The United States has banned the sale of spare parts to Pakistan.

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Zaidi emphasized, however, this kind of sale would require U.S. consent at some level.

To avoid legal hurdles in the United States, he said, America might ask Turkey to supply Pakistan the spare parts.

A senior military official disclosed that Pakistan and Turkey were expected to sign an agreement of joint defense production for the Pakistan Ordinance Factories. Pakistan and China have a similar joint defense production pact.

The Pakistani official said a joint Pakistani-Turkish military exercise is also expected soon.

The official statement said Pakistan and Turkey have "complete identity of views" on the regional situation with the reference to Afghanistan and the situation on Pakistan borders.

Turkey reassured Pakistan of its complete support on the Kashmir issue and urged immediate resumption of dialogue between India and Pakistan for lasting peace in the region.

Turkey has supported Pakistan on the Kashmir issue, reciprocating for Pakistan's support of Turkey on the Cypriot issue.

In discussing Afghanistan's national reconstruction, Cakmakoglu agreed to the proposal of joint efforts for supply of required material and relief items. The Turkish minister offered collaboration in construction of shipyards in Pakistan.

Pakistan and Turkey have maintained an arms and ammunition export agreement, under which Pakistan has supplied Turkey small arms in accordance with NATO specifications. Pakistan and Turkey also have an agreement on military cooperation in training and techniques.

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