President Carter's drive to win congressional repeal of the U.S. arms embargo against Turkey suffered a serious setback yesterday when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee rejected the request, 8 to 4.
The committee's action means that the adminstration now will find it exceedingly difficult to get the full Senate to vote on ending the embargo, which the administration says threatens to disrupt the NATO alliance.
By refusing to write language repealing the embargo into the fiscal 1979 military aid bill, the committee denied the Senate the opportunity for an automatic vote on the embargo when the aid legislation comes up for consideration.
The administration's chances of getting the embargo lifted aren't dead, however. Although administration sources would not say last night what their next move will be, they still have a couple of strategy options to fall back on.
The most likely would involve an attempt to tack the embargo repeal onto the military aid bill while it is under debate by the full Senate. However, intricate parliamentary maneuverings would be required to carry off such a maneuver.
In addition, the House International Relations Committee last week voted narrowly to include the embargo repeal in its version of the military assistance legislation. If the House goes along, there would be another opportunity to win Senate reconsideration when the difference in the House and Senate bills are ironed out by a joint conference committee.
In the meantime, though, the odds clearly have tipped against the administration's request, which is opposed fiercely by the Greek-American community and its supporters in Congress.
Congress imposed the embargo in February 1975, after Turkey's invasion of Cyprus in the summer of 1974. Turkish forces continue to occupy roughly 40 percent of that island country, which has an 80 percent Greek population.
Although the embargo later was modified to permit Turkish arms purchases of up to $175 million a year, it has caused a steady deterioration in relations between Washington and Ankara. After closing most of the U.S. bases there, Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit has threatened to end the U.S. military presence in Turkey permanently and loosen, or sever, Turkey's ties to NATO.
That has caused the Carter administration to call for repeal of the embargo on the grounds that it has become counterproductive.The administration argues that ending the embargo would prevent the unraveling of NATO defenses on the alliance's southern flank and stimulate movement toward a Cyprus settlement.
Committee members voting against ending the embargo Democrats were Paul Sarbanes (Md.), Claiborne Pell (R.I.), Dick Clark (Iowa), Joseph R. Biden (Del.), Richard Stone (Fla.), and Muriel Humphrey (Minn.); and Republicans Jacob K. Javits (N.Y.) and Charles H. Percy (III.).
Voting in favor were three Demoncrats - committee Chairman John Sparkman (Ala.), Frank Church (Idaho), George S. McGovern (S.D.) - and Republican James B. Pearson (Kan.)
The committee approved adminstration military aid requests that would give Turkey $175 million in arms credits and $50 million in balance-of-payments support. It also voted $140 million in arms credits for Greece and $5 million for refugee assistance on Cyprus.