Remarks by Secretary of State Clinton and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu After Their Meeting

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–February 13, 2012. 

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, good afternoon, everyone. And let me say what a great delight it is for me to welcome my friend and colleague for intensive negotiations and discussions over a range of issues that are of importance to both of us. I am always pleased to have time to meet with Minister Davutoglu because of what the United States and Turkey are working on together, the values that we share, and the commitment to a peaceful, prosperous future, not only for the Turkish and American people but for people everywhere.

I want to say a word about the bombing of an Israeli diplomatic vehicle in India, the attempted attack on Israeli Embassy personnel in Georgia. Terrorism anywhere is an affront to the international community. There are many kinds of attacks that take place around the world. We condemn all forms of terrorism and we stand ready to assist in investigations of these acts and others because of the importance we place on having a strong international front against terrorism.

I think it’s important also to look at the Turkish-American relationship, not only bilaterally but what it means regionally and globally. We stand shoulder to shoulder in so many different ways: as NATO allies in transatlantic defense and stability; as partners united against terrorism from the PKK to al-Qaida; as economic partners working for mutual prosperity through trade and investment and so much more. In the past year, we have spent a lot of time consulting because of the challenges of a fast-changing Middle East and North Africa, from Libya’s transition, to the efforts to strengthen inclusive governance in Iraq, to certainly the situation in Syria.

Syria was at the top of our list of important matters to discuss today. It is deplorable that the regime has escalated violence in cities across the country, including using artillery and tank fire against innocent civilians. We stand with the Syrian people and we are looking for a peaceful resolution. The United States and Turkey have again called on the regime to heed the Arab League’s latest efforts, as well at the international community, to end the killing immediately, withdraw military forces from residential areas, allow in monitors and journalists, release political prisoners, and begin a genuine, sincere, democratic transition that starts with a respectful serious dialogue with the opposition.

The United States strongly supports the efforts of the Arab League as set forth at the conclusion of their meeting in Cairo. And we look forward to joining the Arab League initiative for the Friends of Syria group, which will have its first meeting in Tunisia next week. Certainly, Minister Davutoglu and myself will play a very active role in trying to search for solutions. We will intensify our diplomatic pressure on the regime to end its campaign of violence. We will strengthen our targeted sanctions, bring the international community together in condemnation of the actions of the Assad regime. We will increase our outreach to opposition both inside and outside of Syria.

And particularly we will work closely with Turkey and other partners to address the growing humanitarian concerns of those who are suffering. We have heard the call of the Syrian people for help and we are committed to working to allow the entry of medical supplies, of emergency help to reach those who are wounded and dying. We are increasing our funding to organizations like the Red Crescent, the International Committee for the Red Cross, and we’re working directly with Syrian organizations at the grassroots to help families who have no electricity, food, or clean water.

And because of the process leading toward Tunisia, we will work closely with Turkey and others to promote a political process. This is essential, and the Syrian people deserve no less than a democratic future free of government oppression, terrorism, and violent extremism. Turkey, of course, is one of the leaders and has much at stake being a neighbor and a nation of conscience that understands the suffering of the Syrian people and serves as an example of an alternative to the brutal Assad regime.

We talked about so much else. We talked about Iran, where we continue to pursue a dual track that both applies sanctions to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons but also makes it clear that we are ready to sit down and discuss in a purposeful way, through diplomatic engagement, the nuclear program. I have said many times from this podium and elsewhere we recognize Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear energy, but Iran also has international responsibilities that we expect it to live up to.

We also have discussed the very strong support that Turkey is providing for the new democracies. We discussed the full range of issues on a bilateral basis that we are continuing to make a priority between us. Turkey’s successful democracy is a real example. We are continually interested in the very important work being done by the Government of Turkey on religious freedom, the return of religious property, and of course, I expressed our interest in the Halki Seminary.

I think it’s important for us to be focused on what we can do to help the emerging democracies such as Tunisia, such as Egypt, such as Libya and others, and also to stay focused on the great needs of Syria. We’ve been able to speak for hours on these issues, as we always do when we meet, because we meet not only as colleagues but as friends. And I look forward to many more constructive conversations.

FOREIGN MINISTER DAVUTOGLU: Thank you very much, Madam. It was great honor for me to be in Washington again. After Secretary Clinton’s recent visit to Istanbul in July, we agreed to meet at least twice a year in both capitals, but meanwhile we had several opportunities to meet at the margin of several international conferences. Sometimes every week we are meeting because there is a huge agenda, common agenda, in front of us, common challenges, opportunities, in our surrounding regions as well as in global scene.

Today Turkish-American relation is really a relationship of model partnership, as it has been described by President Obama. And we want to have this relation not only a security relation but also an economic relation and an economic model partnership, having huge common projects in investment and trade.

On – in NATO we are – we have several issues to be shared with the new Strategic Concept in NATO, and the approaching Chicago summit will be very important, and we’ve shared our common approach in NATO.

But of course, the main agenda was regional issues, as Secretary Clinton mentioned, and we have been talking very closely. Last week we were in Munich, in fact, together, and we went through all these files, because there is a historic turning point and transformation in the Middle East. And Turkey is in such a geography, now in the western part of Turkey there is an economic crisis, in the southern part of Turkey there is a huge political crisis. Turkey is an island of stability, economic growth, and prosperity, and we have special relations with United States and we want to have a positive contribution in resolving all these crises around us.

Now the hot issue is Syria. We discussed in details, because after the peaceful and sometimes challenging but at the end of the day successful transformations in Tunisia, in Egypt, in Morocco, Libya in North Africa, elections were held. I think it is the right of other people, like Syrian people, to have the same, the same rights, the same values, to be implemented in their countries. We support the transformations – political transformations in North Africa. We discussed in detail how to help Tunisian, Egyptian, Libyan cases, where we work together shoulder to shoulder with the regional partners as well as global partners to make this a success, because the values of these people demanded were our values: rule of law, freedom, democracy, transparency, accountability. These are the values we are defending everywhere, in Turkey and outside.

Now Syrian people demand the same thing, not more. And it is the right of the Syrian people to have a new democratic political culture and atmosphere to get benefit out of this historic transformation. That was their demand. Last year there was no violence and Syrian people demanded these. But unfortunately, Syrian regime acted violently against these demonstrations, against these peaceful demonstrations, and today we have a real humanitarian tragedy in front of us.

As Turkey, we had a three-stage strategy in this crisis. First, bilateral engagement. From January until August last year, we did everything bilateral-wise to convince Syrian regime to accept the demands of the people. When it didn’t produce results, we worked at the second stage with Arab League as a regional initiative. And Arab League we appreciate. We admire all the efforts of Arab League. And here again I want to underline we support all the decisions of Arab League. Yesterday, I spoke with secretary general of Arab League, with presidents of Arab League, Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jasim and Tunisian minister of foreign affairs, and we declared our support.

But despite of all these good intention and support of the Arab League, the UN Security Council, as you know, was not able to endorse the Arab League plan because of the vetoes. When there was such a deadlock in UN, of course, as international community, as regional partners, we could not wait and see, and every day artillery shelling is continuing and there’s a huge oppression in Homs, in many cities of Syria.

Therefore my visit to – although it was not planned for this purpose, it was a much more wide-range consultation, but it was very timely. We went through the situation in Syria. First, we agreed that there should be new humanitarian initiative to reach out to people who are suffering because of the shortage of food, medicine, everywhere in Syria. And therefore, I spoke with Secretary General of United Nations yesterday, and we started, as Turkey, an initiative in Human Rights Council in Geneva in United Nations, how to make this humanitarian access possible.

Secondly, of course the political dimension. We will be together in Tunisia, and the meeting in Tunisia will be an important international platform to show solidarity with the Syrian people, and to send a strong and clear message to the Syrian regime, that they cannot continue these violent policies. Of course, we will follow closely with the United States and other partners what – how things will evolve, but we will continue to defend Syrian people in this – in their struggle.

We discussed in details on Iran, Iranian issue, especially nuclear negotiations. I was in Tehran last month. The Iranians declared their willingness to restart the negotiations. We had a close contact with Cathy Ashton, and today we shared the best way is – to start these negotiations with a strong political will and good intention and with a result-oriented process, not just meeting and another meeting after one year, the same difficulties, the same procedures. They should meet and stay there until they resolve the issue. This – if there is such a concentrated negotiation, we hope that there might be – there will be a solution. There are other issues which we share – the developments in Balkans, Caucasia, Cyprus, many other issues. It shows how our – we have common agenda and interest together with the United States. And thank you very much for your great hospitality, Hillary. Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much.

MS. NULAND: We have time for four today. Two on the left side, two on the other side. We’ll start with (inaudible).

QUESTION: Thank you. Madam Secretary, the Russians seems to imply that no international peace-keeping forces, or even Arab League forces, can go back to Syria without the consent of the Syrian Government. So in this regard, are you putting pressure on the Syrians – on the Russians to mediate, to change their position? And how else can you have a mechanism to allow you to realize this?

And Mr. Foreign Minister, you just talked about Iran. Regarding Iran, Turkey has mediated before. Are you willing now to mediate to bring the Iranian back to the negotiation table, since the Secretary talked about willingness to have the – both sides talking?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well first, we support the Arab League’s decisions coming out of the meeting in Cairo to try to end the violence and move toward a transition. And we look forward to working closely with them in the lead-up to the meeting in Tunisia. There are a lot of challenges to be discussed as to how to put into effect all of their recommendations. And certainly, the peacekeeping request is one that will take agreement and consensus. So we don’t know that it is going to be possible to persuade Syria. They’ve already, as of today, rejected that.

But I think this is what we’re trying to explore with the upcoming meeting in Tunisia, where we bring people together who are committed, as Turkey and the United States are, to seeing an end to the violence and a transition, and explore all of the ideas. Ultimately, it’s going to be important to convince the Assad regime that they are leading Syria into the outcome that we all deplore. We do not want to see a civil war in Syria. No one wants to see a civil war in Syria. So we have to encourage the Assad regime, and those who support it, to understand that there’s either a path toward peacemaking and democratic transition – which is what we are promoting – or there’s a path that leads toward chaos and violence, which we deplore.

FOREIGN MINISTER DAVUTOGLU: Thank you about the nuclear issue. I think Turkey is one of the countries who are losing because of this tension of the main countries, and Turkey will be one of the winning side, if there is any resolution of this issues because we have two principles here. We are against any nuclear military capacity around us in the region, or we want to have nuclear disarmament throughout all – in the globe. And – but at the same time, we don’t want any limitation to the peaceful nuclear capacity or technology.

Based on these two values, there should be a negotiation. Iran must ensure that there will be no military dimension of their nuclear technology, but at the same time, the right of having peaceful nuclear technology should be given to all nations including Iran.

Based on these values, Turkey will be contributing to all process, not as a mediator or nor as a facilitator. The name – the position is not important. We will be doing everything possible to resolve this issue. Last year, we hosted the last meeting. If there is another – I mean – request from us, we will be willing to host. We will be willing to facilitate if neither is – we willing – we are willing to mediate or do anything which will contribute to the process.

MODERATOR: Next one, Ali Aslan from daily Zaman.

QUESTION: Thank you. Turkey is a leading Muslim majority nation which has historically been part of Europe. But unfortunately, Turkey’s full membership process with the European Union is not moving much forward nowadays. Madam Secretary, are you concerned about possible implications of EU’s unwelcoming attitude towards Turkey in larger Islamic world, especially given the U.S. emphasis on constructive engagement with Muslims all over the world?

And Mr. Minister, are you optimistic Turkey will eventually be a member of EU? And what can U.S. do to further facilitate this process? For example, would you like to see more efforts on the part of U.S. towards resolution of the Cyprus conflict?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well first, as you know, we have long supported Turkey’s full membership in the EU. We don’t have a vote, but we have certainly made our views known year after year because we think it’s in both Turkey’s interest and Europe’s interest for Turkey to be a full member of the European Union. And I am one who thinks eventually that will occur, that it is something that is very much in the interests of both economic and political integration. So I don’t want anyone to get discouraged, and I don’t want anyone to walk away from it – but like with any difficult negotiations, sometimes it needs to be put on the backburner for a while, and we have enough to keep us busy right now in the region.

And there is certainly a role for the United States to play because of our long association with, and alliance with Turkey that we value greatly. We’ve been partners and allies in NATO, where Turkey’s played a very constructive role from the beginning till the recent day. So we continue to believe that it’s in everyone’s interest for Turkey to become an EU member.

FOREIGN MINISTER DAVUTOGLU: This has been the question for many years. We have been repeating the same answer. Yes, we want to be member of EU, and in spite of all the discouragements coming from EU side, we are still optimistic that one day we will be member of EU, because our membership to EU will been an asset to EU and everybody will win. EU will be geopolitically more influential, economically more dynamic, culturally more inclusive. Turkey will be much more stronger, and Turkey and EU cooperation will be a great asset for U.S., for NATO, and for – will be great asset for the global community.

And of course, we are grateful to the United States because of the support given to this membership process, but of course, United States will not decide. If they have this chance to decide, I am sure until now, we would have been member of EU. But we still expect the same support. Every year, we are having transatlantic dinner hosted by Secretary Clinton, and she is facing problem always – first, EU meeting, then another meeting. Once – one day, we will be having just one meeting. We will be uniting.

SECRETARY CLINTON: And I always host a dinner with everybody at the table. (Laughter.)


SECRETARY CLINTON: It’s my eating diplomacy. I figure you eat together enough times, you work through all the problems.

FOREIGN MINISTER DAVUTOGLU: But this is her success, not insufficient success, because of her personal commitment. Thank you very much.

MODERATOR: Next one, Josh Rogan, Foreign Policy.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. Mr. Foreign Minister, it’s been reported that you brought a list of contingency options for Syria with you in hand to discuss with Secretary Clinton and Secretary Panetta. I’m wondering, did that list include providing buffer zones or safe havens inside Syria? And would Turkey be willing to contribute troops to such a mission?

And for Secretary Clinton, you just mentioned that a peacekeeping force in Syria would require the consensus of the Syrian regime. In the event that the Syrian regime does not concede to having foreign troops on their soil, what types of other assistance are – can be provided without their consent? Medical assistance, humanitarian assistance, communications, intelligence, et cetera? Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER DAVUTOGLU: Of course, as decision makers, politicians, we have to think all the options and scenarios. Some scenarios could be not opted for, but unfortunately in Syria today, there is such a situation we are alarming and we are all worried about. But today, the agenda in our consultations and also in Tunisian meeting will be a political solution, diplomatic solution, and humanitarian access as early as possible. Even at this moment, should be possible.

About other contingency plan, we hope that we will not need – there will be no scenarios for these plans. But if one day something happens, of course our basic reference is, as a neighbor, is the humanitarian – to include humanitarian situation and to protect civilians because they are not, I mean, far away. There are millions of people living in Turkey being relative of Syrian people. We cannot be silent when these humanitarian tragedies continuing. At this moment, we are talking on diplomatic and humanitarian steps to be taken, but for other scenarios we hope that those things will not be needed. But we need to think about contingencies as well.

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think that the minister has summed it up well.

MS. NULAND: Last one. (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Thank you. Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki has harshly criticized and warned Turkey, claiming the Turkish Government interferes with internal affairs with – of his country. Ankara also responded to Baghdad.

Madam Secretary, are you concerned about the state of Iraqi-Turkey relations and do you think Iraq would be better off if it distances itself from Turkey? And what would be the possible implications for the United States?

Mr. Minister, what is Turkey’s vision about the future of Iraq? Are you concerned about an intensified sectarian conflict which might lead to a possible partition? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are concerned about the political situation inside Iraq, because it’s important that the Iraqi Government be an inclusive one in which all Iraqis believe that they have a stake in the future of a united Iraq. And the foreign minister and I had a good discussion about Iraq and how we can work together to strengthen their democracy, help to settle political differences between various factions. We both have a very strong interest in a unified Iraq that is developing its democracy, providing services for its people, regardless of who they are or where they live.

So we were encouraged by the return of the Iraqiya bloc to the Council of Representatives. We are supporting President Talabani’s efforts to mediate among the different factions, to move toward a national conference that would focus on achieving a political solution that would represent the interests of all Iraqis in accordance with Iraqi law and the Iraqi constitution, because the Iraqi constitution calls for power sharing. It recognizes that there are different constituencies within Iraq, and we strongly support the efforts to try to reaffirm that commitment and then to build a stronger base for Iraqi governance and democracy going forward.

We encourage Turkey to continue to play an important role in trying to reach out to Baghdad, to many different personalities within the political system, and we’ve encouraged other nations in the region to do the same. We think Turkey’s played a very constructive role. But we share the concern about the need to demonstrate unequivocally a commitment to an inclusive Iraqi Government that represents all Iraqis.

FOREIGN MINISTER DAVUTOGLU: I think Iraq is the backbone of the stability in our region. If there is no stability in Iraq, there cannot be stability in our region. We have been always saying Iraq is like a small Middle East. We have all sectarian, ethnic communities, religious communities in the Middle East we have in Iraq.

And as Turkey, for us the stability of Iraq is so important. The welfare of all Iraqis, regardless of their ethnic or sectarian background, that is the only demand of Turkey. And when we see an Iraqi, we don’t look the identity. We see all Iraqis as our eternal neighbors, brothers and sisters. Their welfare is our welfare. If they have any problem, any pain, it is us, we feel the pain. Whenever there was any terrorist attack, Iraqi Government knows first we call them and we ask them with all the facilities we are at your disposal. That will – that has been our attitude. That will be the continuation of our policy.

But as Secretary Clinton referred, Iraqi constitution necessitates power sharing. In fact, Iraq is the place where the first Arab Spring, in the sense, in that sense, started when we look at the free and fair election first occurred in Iraq, and this parliament has been formed after a free and fair election. Therefore the success of Iraqi democracy now, the efficient work of Iraqi Government, is so important for all of us. Whenever we say something to Iraq, it is not for any intention of intervention, but it is an intention to help, that Turkey will be siding with Iraq for the success of the Iraqi democracy. And it is a test now for all Iraqis, for all neighbors. If there is a successful Iraqi democracy, that will be a good model for other countries as well.

How can we make such a success? It is – the only success is a common commitment of all groups, all parties, for the nation of unity, nation of sovereignty, integrity of Iraq, and working together, sharing power, and preparing Iraqi people for the future. Iraqi people suffered a lot in last three decades because of Iran-Iraqi war, because of Gulf War, et cetera. Now it is time for happiness, for prosperity in Iraq, and Turkey will be always contributing to the prosperity and happiness of Iraqi people.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all very much.