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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Remarks at the Turkish Prime Ministry

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
July 16, 2002

(Media availability at the Turkish Prime Ministry)

Wolfowitz: Good afternoon. I guess you all know I'm the Deputy Secretary of Defense of the United States. I'm here on a long-planned visit to Turkey, one that I've been looking forward to for a long time. I've actually been involved in U.S.-Turkish relations for over a quarter of a century. It's embarrassing to think that I'm that old, but I am. And I've developed an enormous appreciation of the value of this strategic partnership, so I was very much looking forward to this visit.

I've had the opportunity over the course of today, and also half a day on Sunday in Istanbul, to discuss in some detail the many aspects of our defense relationship that has a wide range of subjects connected to it. Including, I might add, the very important cooperation that's taking place now between our two countries in Afghanistan.

I was in Afghanistan yesterday and had the opportunity among other things to meet with General Zorlu and some of the Turkish forces who are now taking a lead in the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul. They are doing it with the professionalism and great skill that we've come to expect of the Turkish military. That's wonderful to have an ally who steps up and takes on important responsibilities like that one, as Turkey is doing today. So this is an extremely valuable relationship to the United States and we in the Defense Department want to do everything we can to strengthen it.

We are also very aware that Turkey has been going through a period of economic difficulties and it's important to the United States to do everything that we can to help Turkey get through this patch of economic difficulty. And in that connection also, as I mentioned in my remarks in Istanbul Sunday night, we are very interested in supporting Turkish membership in the European Union. We believe that would be a very important step forward not only for Turkey, but for the European Union and for the United States.

So I've had the opportunity here of a wide range of discussions with government officials, with private business people, politicians and now with the Prime Minister himself, who was gracious enough to give us some of his time. So I came here to get a better perspective on Turkey and to listen and learn and get Turkish perspectives. As always, it proves to be very valuable. I'll be here for another day and a half, so I expect to be even smarter by the time I go home, but I'm willing to dare one or two questions at this stage of knowledge.

Q: (inaudible)

Wolfowitz: We discussed many, many issues: bilateral defense issues, economic issues and a wide range of regional issues. Turkey's perspective on this part of the world is uniquely valuable. Turkey is the only democracy in its neighborhood, in its immediate neighborhood. It shares the same values that we do. It views this neighborhood as a country that's closely affected by everything that goes on here. And it's very important for the United States to get Turkey's perspective on those issues.

One other question then we've got to go.

Q: Although you've said that you've discussed many issues, (inaudible) did the Prime Minister and the General Staff tell you that Ankara is concerned and is (inaudible). Did they ask for any guarantees that a Kurdish state won't be established in northern Iraq?

Wolfowitz: We've been very clear and I was very clear in my statement on Sunday, but that was just one of many American statements, expressing our firm opposition to a Kurdish state in northern Iraq. As I said in those remarks, Turkey has very large and legitimate interests in whatever happens in Iraq.

The United States has a very large concern for Turkey's future and Turkey's success. So it matters greatly to the United States what Turkish views are and what Turkish perspectives are. We are dealing with very complicated problems that do not have simple solutions. We don't believe that we Americans have all the answers, so the major part of coming to Turkey is to get those Turkish perspectives and to be able to take them back to Washington and bring them into the debate and discussion in Washington. Thank you very much.