The U.S. and Turkey: An Essential PartnershipMarc Grossman, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
Remarks to.the Assembly of Turkish American Association (ATAA)
Hotel Washington, Washington, DC
December 12, 2002
It is an honor to be here today. I am pleased to have this opportunity to join State Minister for the Economy Ali Babacan and to see so many friends. I am here today with a number of people from the State Department, including two of my closest colleagues: Assistant Secretary Beth Jones and our Ambassador to Turkey, Bob Pearson.
I had the good fortune to serve my country in Turkey for 6 years. Since I left in 1997, I have returned many times, but, sadly, never on vacation! Turkey will always be a part of our family.
I know you talked this morning about "U.S.-Turkish Relations: One Year After September 11th."
The session showed how September 11 changed our world. The U.S.-Turkey relationship has always been one of strong cooperation and friendship; indeed, in Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz’s words, we have an “indispensable partnership”. The terrorist attacks of September 11 took our partnership to a new level.
The Turkish people know too well the costs of terror. We find ourselves today together fighting a war unlike any other. We fight not a nation or group of nations, but a network of terrorists operating in more than 60 countries. It is also a war unlike any other because we must stop the production, distribution, or use of weapons of mass destruction, instruments of terror unlike any other.
Turkey is a crucial participant in the Global War on Terrorism because it is committed to meeting this unprecedented challenge. Turkey was one of the first countries to demonstrate strong support for Operation Enduring Freedom, granting overflights and use of its airbases. Turkey was also one of the first countries to provide troops for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, and took the leadership of ISAF on June 20. Turkey now has 1,400 personnel in Afghanistan. We salute Turkey’s professional and effective leadership of ISAF.
The Government of Turkey has contributed $1.8 million to rebuilding Afghanistan’s infrastructure and to provide humanitarian relief. By year's end, that figure should reach $2.8 million. The Turkish private sector is active in Afghanistan and has developed links with American partners. The construction of the new U.S. Embassy in Kabul will be done by a U.S.-Turkish-Afghan group, and Turkish companies are involved in a $260 million joint road project as well as other construction projects.
Turkey's support for the Global War on Terrorism and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan are recent examples of Turkey’s efforts to support peace, stability, and democracy. Turkey was there in the Gulf War. In Bosnia. In Kosovo. I remember shortly after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, Turkish friends worried that Turkey would be marginalized, as Turkey's position as NATO's southern flank was no longer important. The opposite has turned out to be true.
Today -- and given the EU Summit in Copenhagen, we really mean today -- together with its friends and allies, Turkey can seize the historic opportunity to achieve two significant and interconnecting goals: progress on Turkey's EU accession bid and a settlement on Cyprus.
Through reforms long sought by the people of Turkey, Turkey is enhancing its commitment to the values which make the western community of nations prosperous and vital. The Turkish people not only support but demand political and economic reforms, not to please Europeans or Americans in the first instance but because it is right for Turkey.
As President Bush said to Mr. Erdogan just two days ago, “the U.S., although not part of the EU, supports Turkey's bid for accession.” We believe that reinforcing Turkey's ties to the West will lead to at least two very positive outcomes:
First, it will provide continued incentive for Turkey to make political and economic reform. This past August, the last Turkish parliament passed groundbreaking reforms, which included removing significant restraints on language education and broadcasting in languages traditionally used locally in Turkey. And the new Turkish Government has announced a bold plan that includes changes to build on those earlier reforms. More needs to be done, but the trend is right and positive. We support Mr. Erdogan's goal to "transform the Copenhagen criteria into the Ankara criteria." We have been particularly pleased to see commitments by Turkey's new leadership to implement rulings by the European Court of Human Rights without delay and that there would be "zero tolerance" for torture.
Turkey also has an opportunity to enjoy sustained, low-inflation growth. If the new government maintains sound economic policies and institutes further reform, it can win market confidence and create an internationally competitive economy that will boost the wealth of the Turkish people. It is essential that Turkey maintain the IMF program. The reforms of the past few years are working, and the prospect of admission to the EU will give Turkey further incentive to pursue reform.
Second, Turkey's accession to the EU will show the world that the clash of civilizations is not inevitable. As Mr. Erdogan recently said, "Turkey's entrance to the EU will influence and affect how the other Muslim nations of the world view the EU in a very positive way. It will be the best example of how Islam and democracy can function together. Turkey will bring a harmony of cultures rather than a clash of civilizations."
A word about Cyprus: we have long supported the United Nations' efforts to achieve a settlement, and we welcome UN Secretary-General Annan's decision on Tuesday to submit to the two sides on Cyprus a revised version of his November 11 comprehensive settlement proposal. We believe the revised proposal should lead to an agreement now. Today. This is a defining moment when history can be written by courageous leaders. We continue, at the very highest levels, to urge the sides, Turkey and Greece, Greek Cypriots, and Turkish Cypriots, to seize the opportunity to reach a settlement at Copenhagen.
The Assembly of Turkish-American Associations has a key role to play. No one in this room is a spectator as Turkey faces its challenges in the coming months and years. We can all contribute to the kind of Turkey -- and the kind of Turkey-U.S. relations -- that we want and that the Turks deserve. Turkish-Americans will find ways you can help to assist Turkey to realize its goal of further deepening its ties to the West.
I ask you to support the effort to bring about a fair solution on Cyprus -- now. I ask you to support a continuation of the successful steps Greece and Turkey have taken to improve relations and to enhance stability in the region. I ask you to reach out to Greek Americans. I ask you to encourage Turkey's new government to continue with Turkish-Armenian reconciliation efforts, as well as the private efforts so that Turkey and Armenia can move along a path to reconciliation and shared economic development.
We thank you for your support and for your counsel. We look forward, as Americans, to keep promoting the interests of our great country with Turkey.
Released on December 13, 2002