Wolfowitz Says Turkey's Example Important to Muslim World
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 15, 2002 Turkey has been a staunch ally of the United States in war and peace, but its greatest contribution may be the example it sets, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said Sunday in Istanbul, Turkey.
Wolfowitz, who is also visiting Afghanistan, called Turkey is an example for other nations with large Muslim populations. Turkey is a nonsectarian republic that has embraced free enterprise.
In the past, both Wolfowitz and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have stressed the role Turkey can play in the Middle East and beyond.
In his prepared remarks to the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation, Wolfowitz specifically pointed out the role Turkey can play in regards to Iraq. He said Iraq under Saddam Hussein slaughters its own people and threatens stability in the region. But a democratic, free-market Iraq "could rapidly build a modern and wealthy society that would be a source of prosperity, rather than insecurity, for its neighbors," he said.
He said this is the reason the United States wants new leadership in Iraq. Wolfowitz assured the group that the United States wants Iraq to maintain territorial integrity after any regime change in Baghdad.
Turkey can also serve as a model for the people of Afghanistan. Turkey now commands the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul and is working with other coalition allies to help the Afghan government establish control and stability.
Wolfowitz said the United States has recognized that establishing a representative government in Afghanistan will be a long and painful process. The process will not succeed if Afghans view it as being imposed by outsiders.
"Afghans are an independent, proud people," he said. "We have worked from the beginning to keep the number of our troops there small and emphasized helping the Afghan people to help themselves in their journey to representative self- government. If that type of government is to take hold, Afghans themselves are the only ones who can make self- government a reality."
But Turkey's model can be an example. The mere existence of a democratic Turkey shows that such a state can exist in the Muslim world, Wolfowitz said.
"Turkey's courage to embrace both tradition and modernity offers great promise for all Muslims today -- especially as we consider the war on terrorism," he said. "The fight against terrorism is not just a fight of the Western countries. It is a fight of all those who aspire to peace and freedom throughout the world and, most emphatically, in the Muslim world itself."
Wolfowitz acknowledged that the Turkish economy has taken a drubbing, but it is turning a corner. He told the group the United States is pushing for Turkey's entrance into the European Union.
"Europe has a strategic opportunity by helping Turkey realize its aspirations to join the EU, to demonstrate to 1.2 billion Muslims in the world that there is a far better path than the one offered by the terrorists," he said.
Turkey's strategic position linking Europe and Asia makes it a cornerstone for building peace in the Balkans and Black Sea region, Wolfowitz said. It is also one of the few countries that can speak to the West and the Muslim world. Wolfowitz said Turkey has overcome many obstacles since Mustafa Kemal established modern, democratic Turkey. It still faces many challenges today.
"These challenges, along with the dangers they pose, also present great opportunities," Wolfowitz said. "They have placed our nations at an important crossroad in history. As we move forward, we can choose the path that will bring us out of crisis and danger to unparalleled opportunity. In this time of great uncertainty, I come here as a friend of Turkey, and I come here to tell you that, in the United States, you have an ally and a friend. In the United States, you have a true partner at this crossroad in history."