Secretary of State James Baker met with Turkish President Turgut Ozal Saturday to wind up a 10-day peace mission that failed to break a superpower deadlock over arms control but revealed what he called a desire for "true reconciliation" in the Middle East.
Earlier in Moscow, Baker met with representatives of the independence-seeking Baltic republics but indicated continued U.S. support for embattled President Mikhail Gorbachev.Baker arrived in Turkey from Moscow Saturday afternoon and went straight into discussions with Ozal and other officials, including Prime Minister Yildirim Akbulut, before flying back to Washington later Saturday. Baker and Ozal said their discussions focused on regional security arrangements following the Persian Gulf war.
Regarding the overall Middle East crisis, Baker said earlier Saturday that after planting ideas on how to chip away at the Arab-Israeli conflict in his visits to seven foreign capitals, the task now will be to test what he heard with commitments to compromise.
Baker said the United States will be "putting specific ideas and proposals" to the parties "to see whether old stereotypes can be broken, old rigid and inflexible positions can be adjusted and compromised."
"Without that," he warned, "there won't be peace."
Though short on guarantees, Baker said he was left with "the distinct impression and sense that the parties to the conflict really want true reconciliation and really want to make an active effort for peace."
In Moscow, Baker's last stop before Ankara, efforts to break an impasse standing in the way of two major arms control agreements met with failure.
Despite U.S. objections, the Soviets insisted on the right to reclassify some 3,500 tanks, artillery pieces and other weapons as naval defense units to exempt them from East-West ground force reductions in Europe.
With the fates of that treaty and a separate accord on strategic arms reductions linked to resolution of that dispute, Baker still held out hope of a breakthrough in time to move ahead with plans for a superpower summit by midyear.
The issues blocking the agreement have come to symbolize the extent to which Gorbachev is feeling pressure from the military and Kremlin hard-liners.
A senior American official said Gorbachev alluded to power plays during their talks, suggesting that "defense-industrial interests" had become emboldened by challenges of his leadership to more forcefully oppose military concessions to the West.
"Gorbachev has to give greater weight to that now because of the political situation in the Soviet Union," the official said. "I think that is entirely what has happened. And it's cracking that nut that we have to do."
Baker seized on positive attitudes to bury tension brought on by Soviet violence in the Baltic republics, the gulf war and doubts about Gorbachev's future.
While meeting with Baltic representatives Saturday morning, Baker signaled no change in Washington's stance of encouraging the broad aspirations of the Baltic states without antagonizing Gorbachev.
For months, Baltic leaders have urged more dramatic action by the United States to lend legitimacy to their cause.
Baker was rewarded for the vote of confidence in Gorbachev with hints of the "new thinking." Where the Soviets had been considered obstructionists, they sought to prove their worth as partners by moving away from old allegiances that ran counter to U.S. objectives.
Despite worries in the West about a retreat from reform, the senior U.S. official indicated Gorbachev had persuaded Baker he has no intention of "a total swing to the right."
"Whatever adjustments he's making, he is making in the interests of seeing something that he started succeed," the official said, "and he is not likely to to opt, to go for the option of a complete reversal."
Baker also spent three hours in Moscow with Eduard Shevardnadze, who worked with him to end the Cold War before resigning in December as foreign minister, warning of "a looming dictatorship."
"Ah, the old team," Shevardnadze remarked as Baker arrived at his apartment for the private meeting.
"Yes, that's right," said Baker, who forged a warm relationship with Shevardnadze. "The old team."