Turkey has decided to buy 14 European-subsidized Airbus passenger jets, ruling out U.S.-made Boeing jetliners for the $600 million contract in a decision with political overtones.
Transport Minister Veysel Atasoy said this week that seven A310 passenger jets made by Airbus Industrie, a consortium of West Germany, Britain, France and Spain, will be delivered to Turkey by 1986. They are to be followed by another seven Airbus jets by the end of the decade.
The decision follows by six weeks Pan American World Airways' announcement that it would buy 28 planes from the European consortium for $1 billion, giving Airbus a firmer footing in the U.S. market.
["We'll be back again at another place and another time," said Boeing spokesman Jim Boynton. "We run a continuing line out here that doesn't scale up or down on the strength of one sale. We just can't figure on jobs per sale."]
Boeing had been negotiating for the Turkish contract for several months. Turkey's Supreme Economic Council announced the decision in favor of the European consortium, and an announcement released by Airbus in Paris said the total sale is worth $600 million.
The council had been leaning toward the purchase of a mix of Boeing aircraft for domestic use and Airbus jets for international use by the state-owned Turkish Airlines (THY), according to well-informed sources.
The governments of West Germany, Britain and France have voted to subsidize the development of new narrow-bodied Airbus jets similar to aircraft under development by U.S. manufacturers.
Airbus also has discussed with Indonesia and Egypt a proposal for jointly manufacturing jetliners for developing countries. The aircraft would be in direct competition with planes produced by the U.S. aviation industry.
"The decision [to purchase the Airbus jets] is also a political message to the United States," said a government official who asked not to be identified.
Turkey has objected to a nonbinding congressional resolution passed in both the House and Senate in September charging that Turkey systematically wiped out a 2,500-year Armenian presence on its territory by killing 1.5 million people and deporting 500,000 others.
Congress also trimmed $39 million from a military aid plan requested by President Reagan for Turkey for 1985 in an effort to get a settlement on Cyprus.
Turkey also is seeking to improve relations with the European Economic Community, which has frozen $600 million in aid to Turkey since 1980, when Gen. Kenan Evren seized power in a military coup.
President Evren's government has come under sharp criticism by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International for human rights abuses, including imprisonment of political enemies and the widespread use of torture by police.
Airbus has sought to cut into the foreign market for passenger jets, which comprises two-thirds of Boeing's total market.
Boeing has sought "forceful trade retaliation" against Airbus Industrie from the Reagan administration, such as requirements that recipients of U.S. military aid be required to buy U.S.-made aircraft.