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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Media Availability at Istanbul Airport

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
July 17, 2002

(Media Availability at Istanbul Airport)

Wolfowitz: Good afternoon.

We are about to leave here. It has been a very productive and short visit here in Turkey. It was one, by the way, that was planned a long time ago and we had some discussion when the political uncertainty started in the country about whether we should continue and our Turkish colleagues urged us to come on ahead and I am very glad that we decided to do so because we had a great opportunity to learn about Turkish perspectives on a very wide range of issues.

This is indeed a strategic relationship, which means that we are interested in a very broad range of subjects, including bilateral issues between our countries, including regional issues about which Turkey has a particularly important set of views to offer. A very important subject is Turkey's relationship with Europe. We strongly support the idea of Turkey's membership in the European Union, even though obviously we are not members, but we believe Turkish membership in the European Union will be something very good for Turkey, very good for Europe, and also very good for United States.

I have been coming to Turkey for over 25 years now and working on U.S.-Turkish relations for that length of time and I am very impressed with how the important and strategic partnership has been over a very long period. It was obviously crucial during the Cold War but when the Cold War ended our partnership continued to be important on a whole range of issues from the Balkans to the Middle East but it all became even more important after September 11. Not so much because of where Turkey is but because of what Turkey stands for. Turkey is one of the few countries with a Muslim majority that has democracy and free enterprise. It is a demonstration that those important values, which we hold dear in our country, and that we believe should be the privilege of all people in the world, are available to Muslims, as well, and therefore Turkey's success is something that we view as very important to the United States. That is the reason why we wanted to have the benefit of Turkish perspectives, why we wanted to understand the problems Turkey is facing in the mere present circumstances.

We had the opportunity to talk about the regional issues, including Iraq, including Afghanistan. We are very appreciative of the leadership role Turkey is playing in Afghanistan, where it is the only country willing to take on the leadership of International Security Assistance Force in Kabul. On Monday I actually visited Afghanistan and had the opportunity to meet with General Zorlu, who commands the Turkish forces there. They are doing the kind of outstanding, professional job that we have come to expect from Turks; we appreciate that very much. There is time for a few questions.

Q: Sir, what is the plan of Washington after the Saddam regime?

Wolfowitz: The question is what does Washington plan after the Saddam regime. What the President has said, and he said it very clearly, is that we believe that the current regime in Iraq is a serious danger to United States and to other countries because it is hostile to us, because it supports terrorism, because it has weapons of mass destruction and is seeking to develop more, but the President has not made the hard decisions about what we need to do to deal with that danger. And part of my discussions here was to develop Turkish perspectives on that subject; including Turkish perspectives on the question you asked, which is what would you like to see after Saddam, and there are certain things we can say very clearly -- we would like to see an Iraq that is democratic, an Iraq that maintains the territorial integrity of the country, to include an Iraq that is not linked to the creation of a Kurdish state in northern Iraq. We want to see an Iraq that is at peace with its neighbors and an Iraq that treats its minorities fairly, including the Turcomen. Those outlines, I think, are fairly clear and there is, I think, quite a strong agreement between the Americans and Turks on that subject, on those subjects, but the details of how one makes sure that happens are not that simple. It is a complex subject and in making our decisions back in Washington I think it will be very valuable for my colleagues and my boss, the Secretary of Defense and ultimately his boss, the President of United States, to understand what Turkish perspectives are. Turkey lives in this part of the world and it is obviously very deeply affected by anything that will happen in Iraq, but also I think it has, from years of experience and from relationships and kinships with Turcomen in Iraq, an understanding of that country that is very valuable to us.

Q: Sir, Russian Defense Minister Ivanov made an explanation about the U.S. operation and said that they do not share the idea of unilateral action there without the sanctions of the UN Security Council. If Russia will fill this condition, what is your reaction and how this condition will impose to Iraq operation?

Wolfowitz: I know personally that the President is interested in the views of all our friends in the world, including Russia, and we are listening to them and I am sure he is going to try to take them all into account but that does not mean that we can agree with all of them. It cannot be emphasized enough that, while the President has made it very clear that this is a very serious danger and it is not a danger that we can just continue to live with until someday something terrible happens, he has an open mind about how to deal with it and what to do about it. Views like the ones you quoted he will be interested in, but I would say that, among the many views that we've listened to, the views of the Turkish government and of Turks are particularly important to us because of the value of that strategic partnership, because Turkey is a country most immediately affected and because Turkey brings a perspective on these issues that is uniquely valuable.

Last question.

Q: Would you specify the time for this operation?

Wolfowitz: Absolutely not. I have heard that there is a date picked. There is a lot of news that is simply invention. I'll just say it again at the risk of repetition. All the president has decided is what he has told the whole world which is that this is not a danger he is prepared to live with indefinitely. But it is simply not the case that any decision has been made about what to do, when to do it, or how to do it. Thank you.