"Economic relations and trade are far more important than direct military aid" is the message that Prime Minister Turgut Ozal is emphasizing in the preliminaries to his official visit to Washington, where he is to meet with President Reagan on Tuesday.
Many Turks were angered by Wednesday's decision by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to trim military aid to Turkey. However, Ozal appears determined to improve ties with the United States regardless of such decisions.
Ozal has called for a new chapter in Turkish-U.S. relations that would be free of the effects of lobbying groups on the decisions of the American Congress -- which imposed a brief embargo on military aid to Turkey after this NATO ally invaded Cyprus in 1974 on behalf of the Turkish Cypriot minority. Congress has continued to limit aid, while Turkey has pressed for more.
Ozal, considered a pragmatist, is preaching a new approach. This partly explains why the business-oriented prime minister is spending a week in New York and Chicago before his official visit to Washington.
In meetings with business groups and bankers, Ozal has said that "a stable Turkey, with the required economic cooperation from the West," would be an asset to the NATO alliance in the Middle East, just as Japan is in Asia.
"We want to bring in foreign capital, U.S. capital, and foster joint ventures," he has noted, stressing minimum economic intervention by the state and a free-market economy. "Our program is basically quite similar to that of President Reagan," he told one group.
A second major emphasis of the premier's visit is to "use this chance to promote a better understanding of Turkey in the United States," said Ozal, who has lived there.
In Washington, he will be underlining new approaches to the longstanding dispute over Cyprus and the strained relations between Turkey and Greece. Ozal, who has been demanding a summit meeting with his Greek counterpart, Andreas Papandreou, has stressed that a solution in the divided island "cannot be expected while Turkish and Greek prime ministers cannot even shake hands."
According to diplomats in Ankara, the Turkish prime minister is ready to make further good-will gestures. To neighboring Greece's charges of a Turkish threat, Ozal has said, "We do not have any ambitions over an inch of Greek territory."
Sources have said that Ozal would seek the cancellation or at least the rescheduling of $3.5 billion in debts from purchase of U.S. military equipment.