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Press Conference with Secretary Cohen and Minister Cakmakoglu, Ankara, Turkey

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen
July 15, 1999

Press Conference with the Turkish Minister of National Defense Sabahattin Cakmakoglu at the Ministry of National Defense, Ankara, Turkey

Secretary Cohen: Thank you very much Minister Cakmakoglu for hosting this visit. I also want to thank you, the Government of Turkey and the people of Turkey for making such a strong contribution to NATO's efforts of bringing stability to the Balkans. Turkey contributed 11 F-16's to the Operation Allied Force. You authorized NATO planes to fly from three of your bases. Turkey provided humanitarian aid to Kosovo refugees and took in as many as 20,000 refugees. And 1,000 Turkish soldiers are participating in the KFOR Mission in the German sector. These are on top of the brigade that Turkey has already contributed to the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. So, as these commitments demonstrate, Turkey is a reliable ally and a strong contributor to European security. I discussed the strong military relations between the United States and Turkey with members of the Turkish General Staff, and then yesterday of course I saw first hand how well our forces are working together at Incirlik. In my meetings with the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, we discussed Turkey's broadening regional engagement. This includes promoting the Middle East Peace Process, advancing stability in the Caucasus area, helping to contain the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, and playing constructive role with the newly independent states in Central Asia. In my meeting with the Prime Minister, I congratulated him on the April elections and expressed confidence that the United States and Turkey will be able to improve relations even further. Thank you.

Minister Cakmakoglu (speaking through an interpreter): Mr. Secretary, I'd like to thank you. I would like to greet you as the valuable secretary of a friendly and allied country. We conducted very useful talks with the secretary. We discussed Turkish - American bilateral relations, regional relations and also matters concerning European security and defense as well as Cyprus, Turkish-Greek relations, Kosovo and recent developments in Northern Iraq. The Turkish-American friendship and allied relations are continuing and we are pleased to see that our cooperation is being pursued on the basis of mutual interest and enhanced partnership. From time to time there maybe problems in relations, but we are sure that this is not stemming from the U.S. Administration and eventually common sense always prevails. And in a short time we resolve those problems as well. During my discussions with Secretary Cohen, we dwelled upon some friction points and we were pleased to see that our views are very parallel. On issues concerning the Balkans, the Middle East, Caucasus - the problems and the solutions for those problems - we share similar views. We also reviewed the European Security and Defense initiative and we agreed that European security and defense without Turkey would be lacking something. Also we conveyed through the secretary that Turkey believes that resolving Cyprus and Turkish-Greek problems should go through dialogue. I thank the secretary.

Q: Mr. Cohen as far as I understand one of the important issues is discussion over Iraq and first how more information (inaudible)... do you continue to function and second (inaudible)... What kind of steps will the United States take?

Secretary Cohen: First, let me say that we are very much in agreement. Turkey and the United States hold the view that Saddam Hussein has posed a threat to the region and to the extent that he is unrestrained will pose a threat in the future. Operation Northern Watch as well as Operation Southern Watch -- but Operation Northern Watch will continue as long as Saddam Hussein continues to refuse to abide by, and comply with the, U.N. Security Council Resolutions. The sanctions were imposed under the Security Council Resolutions in order to prevent Saddam Hussein from using revenues to rebuild his military and once again pose a threat to the stability in the region. We will continue to explore ways in which we can help the Iraqi people as we have done through our support for the Oil for Food program to be sure that the Iraqi people are not denied humanitarian assistance and food and medicine and other supplies. But we are determined to preclude and prevent Saddam Hussein from rebuilding his military and thus the sanctions will remain in place. And a final point that we agree on completely is that Iraq's territorial integrity must be maintained. The United States does not want to see Iraq broken up or divided. We believe that maintaining its integrity, its territorial integrity, is important for stability throughout the region.

Q: Can you please provide us a few more details on your discussions related to Cyprus and did any of the officials from Turkey give any indication of any steps that they may be taking in the near future to bring Greece and Turkey closer together?

Secretary Cohen: Let me respond first. The United States, contrary to press accounts, did not come here to exert any pressure on Turkey any more than we sought to exert pressure on Greece. Both countries are valuable members of NATO and we believe that dialogue should exist between both NATO members without pressure coming from the United States or any other third party. The United States does in fact support Secretary General Solana's and U.N. Security Council's call, along with other major countries call, for dialogue directly between the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots without any preconditions and that negotiations should be initiated in order to bring a resolution to the existing tensions. We believe there should be a bizonal, bicommunal federation -- that has been our position. But we also understand that Turkey takes a somewhat different approach. But our view is that there should be direct negotiations without any preconditions and that the parties should move forward directly with each other.

Minister Cakmakoglu: Valuable press members, as the media reported there is no pressuring concerning Cyprus negotiations. That's what the Secretary just explained. We believe that the Turkish and Greek Cypriots must look for a solution based on equality and without intervention from third parties because the interference of third parties makes the problem more complex. And eventually, as the Secretary stated, negotiations must be held without any preconditions. We believe that he also noted that the sides, only the two sides, must talk to each other. On our part we explained again our well-known Cyprus policy.

Q: Did the Minister of Defense mention that there were some points of friction or disagreement? I wonder if you could elaborate on what those are? The Secretary of Defense mentioned there seemed to be a slight disagreement on how to proceed on Cyprus. Could you describe what the points of disagreement were?

Minister Cakmakoglu: What I meant was that our views may not fully be parallel. We repeated Turkey's policy on Cyprus. We do not find it correct that for the last 36 years the Greek Cypriots have been recognized as the representative of Cyprus. We believe that for an equal solution, the negotiation process must be based on the principle of equality. That was the only disputed point that I could mention.

Secretary Cohen: If I could add just a footnote. I believe what the minister was suggesting is that we explored a number of areas where there are frictions, not between Turkey and the United States, but where there are areas of friction that exist or some lack of peace and stability. For example, we discussed Iraq. We share the same view. We discussed ESDI, the European Security and Defense Initiative. On that we share the same view. We discussed the need to combat terrorism, and so that is an area of friction in terms of many parts of the world where terrorists are given support. We discussed our cooperation in Kosovo, another area where there has been friction. So the minister was referring to other areas where there is in fact either a conflict or friction, but not between the United States and Turkey. The only area where there is a different approach, as the minister has just indicated, is on the issue of Cyprus. We believe that the status quo is not acceptable and that negotiations should be instituted quickly without preconditions.

Minister Cakmakoglu: I would like to make a slight addition. I agree with the secretary what he said about his views. But there are no basic differences as we listed the issues that we discussed. There is agreement on those. There may certainly be differences on Cyprus but the fact is that we agreed on resolving the Cyprus issue -- the only difference is the method to be used. One side says that from a federation one can reach a union; the other side says a confederation can eventually reach a solution. So, our difference is not on the basic solution, but on the way it is interpreted. And through dialogue we believe that those can be eliminated.

Q: Mr. Secretary, you just came from Greece. There you heard Athens' views on resolving the Cyprus issue. Here you heard the Turks on the same issue, and you have your own views. Now in the light of these facts, is the U.S. considering taking steps, policies, on the Cyprus issue?

Secretary Cohen: The short answer to that is we do not seek to bring pressure on either Greece or Turkey. We do not intend to try and impose our view. We believe that this must be brought about through direct dialogue between the parties concerned. So yes I have heard the Greek view; I have heard the Turkish view. I believe that, as I indicated before, that the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots should meet, sit down at a table and negotiate a resolution to the situation without any preconditions.

Q: I would like to ask you about the U.S. conventional arms embargo based on the excuse of human rights abuses in Turkey. Has the U.S. side raised this issue and did you Mr. Minister (inaudible) on this issue. And the other gentleman asked Cyprus, have you raised confidence building measures for the Aegean?

Minister Cakmakoglu: Valued members of the press, I can say that this issue was raised under the general topic subtitle and that the Secretary expressed that, on certain measures, the U.S. authorities' stance may be different than the views and stance of the Senate and House of Representatives. He also expressed that there is no problem on this issue.

Secretary Cohen: Let me just add one comment. What I said with respect to a future sales of military equipment is that there are no requests pending for which there are any impediments whatsoever. I did indicate that in the past there have been concerns raised on human rights issues by members of Congress. But I also said that I am encouraged by the Prime Minister' support for human rights legislation that will receive favorable consideration by the Parliament and thereby reduce any impediments in the future. So I am encouraged by what is taking place in Turkey and am hopeful that impediments will not be raised in the future.

Thank you.

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