TURKEY, still the sick man of Europe, is now the beneficiary of a grand and extraordinary bailout program launched by its NATO partners. In aid, loans and debt rescheduling, billions of dollars in relief are being arranged. That a package of this scale and complexity could have been assembled, by allies otherwise at odds among themselves, is a notable achievement. It is especially gratifying in that Turkey's fellow Europeans, especially the Germans, have understood the importance of giving Ankara the means with which to fight through its current emergency. They have not simply left the United States to carry the load.

Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel and his frail minority government now have what financial tools their international friends can provide for them, but they face an awesome task. Unemployment runs at 20 percent and inflation at 80 percent. Hard currency reserves sank last winter to the point where oil imports virtually had to be halted. Political violence is epidemic. The reforms and austerity measures requried by the nation's creditors will savage an already deprived populace and test Mr. Demirel's political skills to their utmost. This latest Western effort to restore a modicum of economic and political health to Turkey and to keep it a reasonably workable democracy and a NATO ally will be extremely hard to pull off.

It is in the allies' self-interest to extend a hand to Turkey. They are in no position, nor of a mind, to demand a price. There is, however, one particular matter in which the Turks could serve themselves and the alliance without undue burden and loss: Cyprus. Since 1974, the Turkish army has been occupying the northern part of the island. All attempts to persuade the Turks to relax their grip, under conditions ensuring protection of the Turkish community, have been unavailing. Recently a fresh U.N. attempt to resume talks between the Greek and Turkish communities failed. Understandably, Greek Cypriots are increasingly desperate lest Turkey, with its vast military preponderance on the island, make the occupation permanent and perhaps declare Turkish Cyprus independent. m

In the past, the United States has tried to link one or another form of aid to Turkish concessions on Cyprus. Every such effort has provoked fierce nationalistic resistance and has failed. eNo such effort is contemplated, nor should be contemplated, now. But is the moment not ripe for a voluntary initiative on Cyprus by Turkey alone? What better way could the Turks choose to show that they, too, respect the purpose -- the right to self-determination of a free people -- for which their allies are supplying them aid?