Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) said yesterday he thinks he has found a way the Senate will vote to lift the present Turkish arms embargo.
He will propose linking that step to progress in resolving the dispute between Greece and Turkey over the island of Cyprus.
Byrd said the issue will reach the Senate floor Tuesday, when Sen. John Sparkman (D-Ala.) will propose an unconditional lifting of the embargo. If the Sparkman proposal runs into trouble as expected, Byrd said, he will offer an amendment tying arms sales to Turkey to progress in Cyprus.
The final language of his proposal is still being worked out, Byrd said. In general, it would declare a U.S. commitment to a fair solution of the Cyprus dispute, and require the president, when requesting military supplies for Turkey, to certify that progress has been made toward a resolution in Cyprus, or that the sale will encourage progress.
It would also call for periodic reports to Congress on the state of Cyprus discussions.
In the interest of "even-handedness," Byrd said, the amendment would also provide an additional $35 million in military aid for Greece next year.
"I feel there would be considerable support in the Senate for this type amendment," the majoriyy leader said, adding he is "fairly optimistic" the Senate will vote to end the embargo.
Byrd said he expects some other senators who have advanced proposals similar to his to cosponsor his amendment. He characterized it as "a choice for those who may be hesitant to vote for any outright lifting of the embargo . . .
"I don't think it's a matter of choosing between two friends. Turkey and Greece. I think it's a question of the national security interests of the United States, of Turkey, of Greece and of NATO."
The embargo was imposed in 1974, after Turkey occupied two-thirds of Cyprus, whose Greek and Turkish inhabitants have historically been at odds.Turkey used U.S. arms in the action, in violation of U.S. military aid law.
Byrd said the embargo has served a purpose, "but the message has been made clear that U.S. arms are not to be used in this fashion . . . It's a symbolic matter to the Turkish government which runs very deep" and "prevents the U.S. from using its good offices" to facilitate a Cyprus resolution.
Equally important, Byrd said, is that Turkey's military forces, which protect a nation that is a key to controlling the Black Sea and both the entrance and exit of the Dardanelles, have suffered during the four-year embargo.
The Turks have encountered maintenance problems, especially on air-craft, and have begun "cannibalizing" some planes to provide spare parts for others, Byrd said. He returned recently from a visit with NATO allies and said less than 50 percent of Turkey's aircraft are now usable.