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Appointment of Special Envoy for Countering the PKK

Daniel Fried, Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs
Interview with CNN Turk TV
Washington, DC
August 30, 2006

Assistant Secretary Fried during interview with CNN Turk TVCNN Turk: [Introduction in Turkish].

Mr. Secretary, welcome to CNN Turk. Thank you for being with us.

Ambassador Fried: Thank you.

CNN Turk: I would like to start by asking you why we need a special coordinator for the PKK. What is General Ralston going to do that wasn't done before?

Ambassador Fried: First of all, I want to start by expressing my sympathies and solidarity with all the families of the victims and with the injured victims themselves of these latest terrorist attacks by the PKK. Three Turks were killed, 60 people were injured, including Turks, British citizens, Israelis, Russians, other Europeans, Jordanians. These were outrageous, utterly unjustifiable attacks. The PKK is a terrorist organization and no grievances - real or imagined - can justify these attacks. So I want to start by expressing solidarity with Turks, with Turkey, and a wholehearted condemnation of these attacks.

Now to answer your question, General Ralston has been named a Special Envoy for countering the PKK to coordinate U.S. government efforts and efforts we will make with the Iraqi government and our efforts in cooperation with Turkey to counter and eliminate this threat. It is a common threat.

If Turkey is threatened by terrorism, so is the United States. We are in this together. We must find a solution.

CNN Turk: General Ralston will be a U.S. government envoy, but who will he report to and will he make policy himself?

Ambassador Fried: He will report to the Secretary of State, but he will work very closely with the Defense Department, the U.S. military - obviously he's a very senior former military officer. And he will work with the National Security Council and the White House. So he is not simply a representative of the State Department, he is a U.S. government special envoy.

CNN Turk: You started out by expressing your solidarity with the Turkish people and others about the recent attacks of the PKK.

Ambassador Fried: Yes.

CNN Turk: As you know, the Turkish people are pretty much fed up with these incidents as well.

Can you expect a radical change in the U.S. policy vis--vis the PKK? Now that there is such a high-profile envoy specially working on this matter?

Ambassador Fried: The Turkish people are absolutely right to be angry, frustrated, and determined to work to eliminate this threat. Turkish people are victims of terrorism. They have every right to expect support and solidarity, so I want to make this very clear.

We, the Americans, have been frustrated by the continuing attacks from the PKK and very frustrated by this recent increase. We want to see this stop. We have been working with Turkey and the Iraqi government intensely in recent weeks. Without getting into the detail, I will say that the Turkish government is aware of certain steps which have been taken. I expect more steps will be taken in the future. It's the nature of this kind of cooperation that you don't talk as much as you act, but the actions will intensify.

Ambassador Khalilzad, the U.S. Ambassador in Baghdad, very much supports this effort. Our military on the ground understands the nature of the problem. This will take time, it will take patience, but we are determined to work with our Turkish friends and our Iraqi friends to this end.

CNN Turk: I appreciate the quietness of diplomacy [inaudible], but as you know, Prime Minister Erdogan will visit Washington soon. He will meet President Bush, I think on the 2nd of October in the White House. Can we expect some solid, concrete results that will be public, that will be known by everybody against the PKK in northern Iraq by that visit? Or will the Prime Minister have to repeat his demands once again?

Ambassador Fried: Prime Minister Erdogan and President Bush have discussed this in the past. No doubt this will come up. I don't doubt it. It should come up. The two leaders will have a discussion of a lot of issues. This is one of them.

I'm not in a position to promise concrete results because we're going after an enemy, we're going after a terrorist organization that is not exactly going to cooperate with the efforts to put it out of business, but I think you will see an increase in action, you will see an increase in coordination and we look forward to working with Turkey.

There's another point I should make. Turkey is a democracy. It is an example of a country resolving its problems and advancing in the world through a deepening of democracy and reforms. This is a beacon of hope for the region and for the world. Turkey is not a so-called Islamic democracy, it is not a people's democracy, it is not a managed democracy. It is a democracy which is implementing democratic reforms. These reforms have accelerated as Turkey continues its efforts to join the European Union. This is the underlying basis of the Turkish-American Alliance. We've had our differences on some issues because Turkey is a free country. Turkey expresses its opinions. But we are united by common values and we are determined to work with our friend Turkey.

CNN Turk: But surely those democratic reforms in Turkey did not solve the Kurdish question, it did not solve the PKK problem and the PKK presence in northern Iraq. Don't you think this is also a military problem and should be solved militarily in the region?

Ambassador Fried: I don't want to suggest that it is a lack of Turkish reforms which is somehow behind the PKK attacks. It is not Turkey's fault.

The PKK is a terrorist organization. What they have done to the Kurdish community is appalling. They are responsible for many of the problems, the lack of economic development in that part of Turkey, so they bear a responsibility, not the government of Turkey.

In fighting a terrorist threat all tools are necessary. There is a place for military and counter-insurgency tools and border security. There is a role for intelligence. There is a role for police action. And there is, of course, a role for civilian civil reforms to reach out to the Kurdish population which has every right as Turkish citizens to want to live in a prosperous, democratic, modernizing Turkey. So we need to use all the tools at our disposal.

CNN Turk: But you are still discouraging Turkey from militarily intervening in northern Iraq.

Ambassador Fried: Well, cross-border attacks are not going to help. This remains our position. That would not help the situation, although the Turkish frustration is understandable. So that does remain our position, but that does not mean there is nothing that can be done.

CNN Turk: What about encouraging more forcefully the northern Iraqis, especially Mr. Barzani, the regional authority in northern Iraq?

Ambassador Fried: Indeed, a solution has to involve the provincial government in the north. They also have a responsibility to see to it that their territory does not provide sanctuary or safe haven for a terrorist group attacking Iraq's friend, Turkey. There is no excuse for that. And as the Iraqi situation unevenly and with difficulty stabilizes, and it is already of course pretty stable in the north, the regional authorities in the north should do more and we will be working with them.

CNN Turk: So you don't think Mr. Barzani has responded adequately so far to the demands -

Ambassador Fried: Well I don't want to say that. I will say that General Ralston will be working with the Iraqi government in Baghdad; he will be working with appropriate regional authorities. He'll have a very wide mandate.

I spoke to General Ralston yesterday about his mission. He's been in Washington before; he will be in Washington again before he leaves for his initial trip to the region. He's a very experienced, savvy person. He knows Turkey very well. He served as the NATO
commander, of course. He knows the region, he knows the military. He's a very good choice for this job.

CNN Turk: Very briefly, Mr. Secretary, is there anything Turkey can do to encourage the PKK elements to go back to the country?

Ambassador Fried: This involves the area of discussions which are best not handled on CNN Turk. Turkey has done a lot in its reforms generally to help integrate the country. Think back 20 years ago and what the situation was then. Think what it is now.

Ultimately it is very clear that Turkey's citizens of Kurdish ethnicity have a future, have a good future in a democratic, prospering, European Turkey. How this comes about is something that is the Turkish government's responsibility. I don't mean to suggest in any way that PKK terrorism is somehow an understandable response. It's not understandable, it's not justified. It hurts the Kurdish people as well as ethnic Turks.

CNN Turk: I know we are running out of time. I have two very very quick questions. One I have to ask you because this has been widely reported in Turkey, that the U.S. government is having contacts, talks, direct talks with PKK -

Ambassador Fried: No.

CNN Turk: - in northern Iraq.

Ambassador Fried: No.

CNN Turk: Has the -

Ambassador Fried: Flat no.

CNN Turk: - met any PKK official at any time at any venue recently?

Ambassador Fried: Not on purpose, that's for sure. They're a terrorist group. The only way we want to meet them is to arrest them or -

CNN Turk: But there aren't any talks.

Ambassador Fried: Nope. I'm aware of the rumors -

CNN Turk: No conversations?

Ambassador Fried: Nope. Not happening.

CNN Turk: Okay.

Ambassador Fried: Not happening.

CNN Turk: And last but not least, another subject.

As you know the Turkish government has proposed to be part of the Lebanon force, and this is going to be discussed in the Turkish Parliament next week.

What's the U.S. view of Turkey's presence, participation in an international force in Lebanon?

Ambassador Fried: First of all, Turkey is a democracy. There's going to be a democratic, public debate in Turkey, and the parliamentary debate is part of this. This is a tough operation. This is not easy. It is natural that there would be a debate.

That said, we think that Turkey could make a contribution, but it's a tough assignment. It's not for the United States to start saying what Turkey should do. Turkey has to decide whether it's in its interest to contribute to the stability of Lebanon by contributing forces. I think it would help, but it's a tough assignment, and it's a sign of Turkey's democracy that it can have this kind of a debate.

CNN Turk: On that note, Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for your time.

Ambassador Fried: It's a pleasure.

CNN Turk: For being a guest on CNN Turk.

Ambassador Fried: It's a pleasure. Thank you.

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