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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Media Availability at Esenboga Airport, Ankara

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

(Media Availability at Departure from Esenboga Airport, Ankara)

This was a long-planned visit, which I was looking forward to for quite some time. I'm very glad that we came.

We came to review a very broad range of issues that concern both our countries. The United States and Turkey have a true strategic partnership. It's a partnership of countries that have very large common interests. Countries that have important perspectives to share with one another. Perhaps most of all it's two great democracies. And I think at this time of challenge in a world where there are people to whom democracy and freedom are anathema, it is wonderful to have an ally like Turkey, who is a model of democracy for Muslims in the rest of the world.

We appreciate very much the graciousness and hospitality of the Turkish Government, the Turkish officials to receive us at a time when obviously there were other things on their mind besides our visit.

But I must say in all of our meetings, including the Prime Minister, it was impressive how much attention was given to the issues in our relationship, both bilateral and regional and larger strategic issues. We've discussed a very broad range of subjects. One of the things that characterizes this as a strategic partnership, is that issues that would normally be exclusively of concern to trade negotiators, for example, become issues of concern to (the department of) defense. So, among the many things we discussed, qualified industrial zones was on the list as well.

Obviously we discussed regional issues, including Iraq. But I'd like to emphasize, because of (speculation in the media), we didn't come here asking any decisions of the Turkish Government. We came here to gain benefit of Turkish perspectives, to be able to go back to Washington better informed about how Turkey views its interests and what Turkey's views are.

I'd be glad to take a few questions.

Q: (inaudible) National Public Radio. Can the United States carry out an attack against Iraq without Turkish cooperation?

Wolfowitz: I've said it many times and I'm happy to say it again. The President of the United States has said one thing and he said it very clearly. Which is that a regime like the one in Iraq, that is hostile to United States, that supports terrorism and that has weapons of mass destruction and is developing more weapons of mass destruction, is a danger that we can't afford to live with indefinitely. What we do about it, how we solve that problem, involves a whole range of decisions which only the President can make and he hasn't made them yet. In fact, for making those decisions it's very important to him to have the benefit of key countries, and key parties, and Turkey is as important as any country in figuring out how to grapple with this issue. What I think there is no question about is that when there is a democratic Iraq, and that is our goal, an Iraq that preserves the territorial integrity of that country, that does not lead to an (independent Kurdish state) -- we are opposed to that -- as the Turkish Government is opposed to (it). An Iraq that truly cares for the welfare of its own people. It won't be only the people of Iraq that benefit from that; it will be the whole world and very much this region. Turkey stands to benefit enormously (inaudible).

Q: Mr. Wolfowitz, what kind of a role do you expect Turkey to play in a time of operation (inaudible) plus how do you plan (inaudible)?

Wolfowitz: Let me repeat. We didn't come here with an idea of what Turkey's role should be or with a decision about an operation. We came here as part of the process of informing our President about the decisions he has to confront in order to deal with that problem which he has identified so clearly. They are difficult decisions for us and we need the benefit of Turkey's perspectives (inaudible).

Q: Turkey fears any possible strikes could damage its economic recovery. One thing that has been cited is the tourism sector. Are there any assurances that a strike might take the timing, take tourism into account when setting a timing?

Wolfowitz: Turkey's economic situation simply is of great concern to the United States. We've been working closely with Turkey for over a year now I believe and we've discussed this with the IMF. Again, I mentioned these are not normally the subjects a deputy secretary of defense gets involved with, but when it comes to Turkey, it does, although it's the secretary of treasury who has a leading role in it. Turkey's economic health is hugely important and obviously, the current political crisis puts extra strains on it. One of the benefits of this visit to me was to have a clear understanding of exactly what kinds of worries Turkey has -- of near term and immediate term. Long term, I don't think we are talking about worries long term. The prospects for this economy are very good.

Q: Mr. Wolfowitz, in any of the talks in Ankara or in Istanbul, did you put forward a choice for this coalition to be in office during a possible U.S. land attack on Iraq?

Wolfowitz: I admire your persistence. But let me say over again, we didn't come here putting choices before anyone. We came here to learn, to understand, to have as good an appreciation of Turkish perspectives as we could develop. Something that impressed me about this country, about the officials, about the government, about the Prime Minister, is their ability, even at a time of political crisis, or certainly great political uncertainty, to be able to talk clearly and dispassionately and with quite impressive analysis of the many issues that we have to face. We did not come here asking for decisions. We haven't made our own decisions ourselves. Thank you very much.

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