Tense political relations with Turkey will not hurt existing U.S. business interests in the country, and construction firms may even find new opportunities there, said former U.S. ambassador to Turkey, Mark Parris.

Mr. Parris, senior foreign policy advisor with the Washington law firm of Baker, Donelson, Bearman and Caldwell, spoke at Emory University’s Claus M. Halle Institute of Global Learning last week about Turkey’s role in the Iraq crisis. He served as U.S. ambassador to Turkey from 1997-2000.

“This war won’t shake companies that are already established in Turkey,” Mr. Parris told GlobalFax following his remarks made at the invitation of Ken Stein, professor of Middle Eastern studies at Emory, and Peter Wakefield, program director of the Halle Institute.

“These are difficult times, there won’t be much new business interest, but there’s no reason U.S. companies shouldn’t stay and be profitable in Turkey.”

Construction companies, especially, understand that Turkey is well-positioned for access to Iraq once the war is over and opportunities arise for rebuilding, he said.

American firms that have offices in Turkey or Turkish partners with offices in Iraq will be poised for entering Turkish markets, he added.

Foreign companies already established in Turkey will continue to profit from a market of 75 million people, a well-developed infrastructure and solid fiscal and financial markets, Mr. Parris said.

But improved trade relations could buoy Turkey’s slipping economy, he added. Making access to U.S. markets for Turkish products easier would be a start, he noted. Another profitable trade tactic might be to “dump” textiles into Turkish markets, but this idea would likely not be popular among Southern U.S. senators whose states’ economies rely on textile manufacturing, he added.

Turkey’s economy has suffered considerably since its decision on March 1 to refuse to allow U.S. troops to use its military bases for the war on Iraq. Interest rates in Turkey were at 45% before, and are currently at 70%, Mr. Parris said.

When interest rates reach 80%, the International Monetary Fund will stop lending to Turkey, which will plunge the country into a fiscal crisis by the end of the summer, he said.

The U.S. will likely “bail Turkey out” by supporting the extension of additional IMF loans, but only if the country is making a “good faith effort,” Mr. Parris said.

Such an effort would mean Turkey meeting certain requirements, including laying off 20,000 government employees, keeping the national budget surplus at 10% and eliminating agricultural subsidies, he noted.

The key to upholding Turkey’s economy would be the success of Western-leaning political parties in municipal elections between now and the 2007 presidential election, Mr. Parrish asserted.

Turkey’s Muslim identity during this crisis has been primarily a tool for diplomacy in the Arab world, and with Islamists currently representing only 16% of the Turkish electorate, a pro-Western political agenda could do much to help the country’s position in the global economy, he said.

By 2007, Turkey’s stance vis-a-vis the Iraq crisis could be seen as “just a fork in the road,” Mr. Parris added. Although Turkey will be less like a “European” country in terms of national identity, it will be more democratic in terms of respecting human rights because its more pro-Western leaders will likely allow Kurds more political involvement, he said.

An economic crisis could derail this liberal trajectory, however, or a fundamentalist political resurgence could spark unrest and economic collapse, Mr. Parris warned. These potential scenarios are yet to be determined, he said.

Contact Dr, Stein at (404) 727-4472 or Dr. Wakefield in Emory’s Office of International Affairs at (404) 727-7504 or visit  HYPERLINK http://www.emory.edu/OIA www.emory.edu/OIA. Contact Mr. Parris at (202) 508-3422.