Interview on NTVDaniel Fried,
Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs
Interview with Umit Enginsoy of NTV, Turkey
July 3, 2006
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary, for being with us.
In an interview with the Washington Times last week Turkey's Ambassador here, Nabi Sensoy, accused two main Iraqi Kurdish groups, mainly the KDP and the PUK, of providing arms and logistics to the PKK, and he said these groups are U.S. allies and he asked Washington to use its influence for an end to this situation.
Are you aware of any arms interaction between Iraqi Kurdish authorities and the PKK? And what are your general comments?
AMBASSADOR FRIED: First of all, we regard the PKK as a terrorist group. We want it to be destroyed. We want it not to be a threat to Turkey or Turks ever again in any place - neither in Turkey nor Western Europe nor Iraq. Iraq should not be a home for the PKK. The PKK should not find a home any place.
To answer your question, no, I'm not aware of the Kurdish regional government or any of the parties giving arms to the PKK. I hope that's not true. Our views of the PKK are well known and we express them to Iraqis of all kinds.
QUESTION: Are you asking Iraqi Kurdish authorities to cooperate with Turkey against the PKK?
AMBASSADOR FRIED: We have encouraged Turkey and Iraq to work together against the PKK and for good relations between the two countries. When I say the Iraqi authorities, I include in that the Kurdish regional government.
QUESTION: Some conservative thinkers here are accusing the AK government of trying to hurt Turkey's secular regime and even to replace it with an Islamic system. What do you think about these accusations? What's your understanding about Turkish democracy and your relations with the Turkish government?
AMBASSADOR FRIED: I could give you a very long answer, but I'll try to keep this brief. We support the deepening of Turkey's democracy. We know that Turkey is not in any way an "Islamic" state. It is a secular democracy with a mostly Moslem population. We believe that in matters of religion there should be a degree of freedom of choice. That's something we hold dear in the United States. We also know that Turkey is debating the borders of the secular and the religious. Turkey is not the only country doing that. France is doing that itself.
We believe that Turkey's secularism and Turkey's democracy should be respected. We also believe that the AK Party has done a good job advancing democracy generally and we hope that Turkey's democracy continues to deepen and that Turkey draws closer to Europe and that Turkey remains a good partner to the United States.
QUESTION: What about the criticism raised, especially in Washington, among some conservative thinkers against the AKP, AK Party government. What do you think the reason is, and you don't agree with that, huh?
AMBASSADOR FRIED: I don't agree with it, but we were concerned at times when some Turkish officials in the past seemed to engage in anti-American rhetoric and sort of indulge anti-Americanism for domestic political purposes. This is always painful when it happens. We think that's very unfortunate.
The United States and Turkey have a lot of work to do together in the world. We think that America-bashing is never a good idea and it's particularly painful when we hear it from our Turkish friends.
QUESTION: You mean some officials.
AMBASSADOR FRIED: That's right. In the past. I think there was a kind of indulgence of anti-Americanism sometimes which is unfortunate.
QUESTION: On the side of the governments?
AMBASSADOR FRIED: On the side of certain officials. I don't want to say the government, because the Turkish government has always been very clear, and I don't want to make too much of this. But you asked basically why there were some in America who are concerned with some developments in Turkey and I wanted to give you an honest answer.
QUESTION: I appreciate this.
On the future of secularism in Turkey, do you have any concerns?
AMBASSADOR FRIED: Turkey, like many other countries in the world, is debating internally what it means to be a modern democracy and to have respect for traditional Turkish values, which include religious values. Every country in the world has to debate these issues. Countries will come out with their own answers.
We believe there should be freedom of religion and freedom not to practice religion, and the states should be neutral in such matters.
Now, how any country interprets individual principles such as these is going to be a matter for that country.
QUESTION: In order to avoid a probable train crash with the European Union in the fall, do you think Turkey should open its ports and airports to Greek Cypriots, ships and planes? Is there anything the United States could do to facilitate reconciliation?
AMBASSADOR FRIED: We support Turkey's EU aspirations. We always have. We continue to do so now. We also support a fair, lasting solution to the Cyprus problem involving reunification of the island, the bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. We think highly of Mr. Talat and what he has done to contribute to such a settlement. Eventually, Turkey, yes, has certain obligations with respect to opening its ports to Cypriot shipping. It's also true that your government has put forth some ideas about how to reach it. We want to contribute to a solution to this problem in a way that takes into account Turkish needs, Cypriot needs, and Turkey's accession process in the European Union.
QUESTION: You said eventually, yes, Turkey should respect its obligations. Eventually: should it be this year?
AMBASSADOR FRIED: I don't want to get too much into the details. I think that a train wreck is avoidable, and I hope it is avoided. We will do everything we can as the United States to contribute to a solution. I think Europe, Turkey and Cyprus should all be prepared to work creatively to find a way forward.
QUESTION: What's the U.S. view on boosting Turkish-Russian relations, and especially Russian plans in energy cooperation, including a possible [inaudible] pipeline for carrying oil?
AMBASSADOR FRIED: Turkey and Russia are neighbors. How could we possibly object to improved relations between Turkey and its Russian neighbor?
This is not a zero sum game where Turkey has to choose between the United States and Russia. That's ridiculous. Of course Turkey wants to have good relations with Russia. It's perfectly natural.
With respect to energy, we believe in multiple pipelines, multiple sources, and competition. We believe in an open system. What we don't believe in is monopolies. The Baku-Ceyhan pipeline is certainly a great success for Turkish-American cooperation, and it's opening this month. The first oil is loaded this month. That's a great step forward.
We believe that the Samsun-Ceyhan pipeline, the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline, the trans-Caspian pipelines are all good things if they're commercially based and part of an open, not a closed, but an open and transparent system of moving energy resources from Central Asia and the Caspian to markets in Turkey and Europe.
QUESTION: You are not opposed to Russian proposals as long as there is a multitude of options?
AMBASSADOR FRIED: Exactly right. Look, Russia is going to be a supplier of oil and gas to Europe. That's a natural thing. All we want is for there not to be a monopoly, but for there to be an open system so that countries like Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, have a choice and so they are part of an open, commercially-based world, not a closed world of energy.
QUESTION: On Iran's nuclear program, it's clear that you are saying that the Solana-Larijani talks are the only official channel. Outside of mediation, what could Turkey do on this matter?
AMBASSADOR FRIED: Turkey is in a very good position to send strong and very useful signals to the Iranian authorities. The so-called P5+1 - the EU-3 plus China, Russia and the United States - have made a very positive, credible offer to Iran. Iran needs to say yes and it needs to negotiate directly with the P5+1. It needs to suspend its uranium enrichment; it needs to negotiate in good faith. Turkey can send a very good message to Iran that the time is now to say "yes" and start working with the international community.
QUESTION: But not a mediation between Iran and -
AMBASSADOR FRIED: Not mediation, but it is a role for Turkey and a role that Turkey can play rather well. Turkey is a strong country; it's a country that has important relations with Iran, and Iran should listen to Turkey.
QUESTION: Finally, on the occasion of the Turkish Foreign Minister's visit to Washington, any message you have for the Turkish people?
AMBASSADOR FRIED: We want to work with Turkey as a close partner in the 21st Century. We believe that a democratic Turkey, a European Turkey, a Turkey which is a leader in showing that democracy has roots in, can be built on a foundation of a Moslem tradition, can be a great partner in the world and for the world in the 21st Century. We look forward to working with our Turkish friends.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary, for being with us.
AMBASSADOR FRIED: It's a pleasure. Thank you.