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Acting Secretary Shanahan and Minister Akar Remarks at the Opening of the Bilateral Meeting

Feb. 22, 2019
Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan and Turkey Minister of Defense Hulusi Akar

ACTING SECRETARY OF DEFENSE PATRICK SHANAHAN:  Minister Akar, Ambassador, General, welcome to the Pentagon.  Before I make some comments, I wanted to pass along my condolences for Sergeant Han, who was killed in a -- in a training incident and we wish that those that were injured have a quick recovery.

In preparation for your -- our meeting today, I talked to many people here in the building.  You're very famous here. (Laughter.)

MINISTER HULUSI AKAR:  Really? I only know Joe Dunford. (Laughter.)

MR. SHANAHAN:  Many, many relationships.

MIN. AKAR:  Thank you very much. My pleasure.

MR. SHANAHAN:  This is, I think, our fifth or sixth meeting in one week.  We've met five or six times now and I think each time, all of the meetings have been productive, and I believe very much the latest meeting was very, very productive.

But we thought we'd do something special, so we brought out the cannons with Chairman Dunford's permission. (Laughter.)

Our security partnership has existed for many, many decades.  And today, that partnership continues in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo.  Today's meeting is very important because we need to continue to do our excellent planning and find solutions, in particular to Syria.

I think we all recognize that it's very complex, but we have the smartest people available to work on this situation.  I look forward to the progress that we'll make today and in our next meeting and the meetings after that.

Again, welcome to the Pentagon.

MIN. AKAR:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  First of all, I'd like to thank you, as you're the acting secretary of defense, for your kind invitation and the great hospitality.  You and General Dunford, thank you very much.  

Our relationship is important.  We are very much aware of this, not only for our bilateral relation, but also for the security and the stability of the region.

Yesterday, as you know, our presidents had a telephone call as they discussed bilateral relations and the latest developments in Syria.  (Inaudible) very positive (inaudible) Turkey.  We are eager to maintain the close and strong relations with our security partner, United States.

We believe that the United States control decision will be implemented in line with our mutual interests, and in close coordination and cooperation with us, with Turkey.  

As two strategic partners and allies, we should continue the close cooperation on our fight against all kinds of terrorism.

In this regard, we will share our determination to fight against all terrorist organizations, including PKK, YPG, PYD, Daesh, FETO and others.  We have here every respect, just to reiterate, for the political unity and the territorial integrity of Syria, Iraq and other neighboring countries.

Finally, in conclusion, we are strongly for the security, stability and the peace in Syria and Iraq.  

Again, thank you.  Thank you very much.

MR. SHANAHAN:  Thank you very much.  We have time for questions for our friends.

Q:  Mr. Secretary, of the troops that are staying in Syria – the U.S. troops who are staying in Syria, what will their mission be?  And then Minister Akar, I heard your comments about what your threats are to your country.

What assurances can you give the coalition that your forces will not hit Syrian Kurds?  And then finally, have you changed your mind on the purchase of the S-400?

MR. SHANAHAN:  Would you like for me to go first?

MIN. AKAR:  I -- yes please. (Laughter.)

(CROSSTALK)

MR. SHANAHAN:  Yeah, yeah.  

Our -- our mission remains unchanged in terms of the defeat of ISIS.  The transition that we're working towards is stabilization, and to enhance the security capability of local security forces, and we'll do that as strategic partners.

Would you like to add ... 

MIN. AKAR:  Oh yeah, the -- let me say, first of all, that we are here, part of the delegation, to discuss all of those issues in detail.  And they of course, as I said…(inaudible)…for the benefit of our country, and for the benefit of the whole region.

And just one thing (inaudible), that I'd like to underline, the difference between the YPG, PYD, PKK, (inaudible) and (inaudible) terrorist organization and (inaudible) communities.  We have never, ever had any problems with either the Kurds or any of the other entities in Turkey or outside Turkey in Syria, but we are fighting against terrorist organizations.  

Thank you.

MR. SHANAHAN:  Yeah, thank you very much.

Q:  And the -- the S-400, sir?

MIN. AKAR:  Yes, yes, discuss.  Yes.

MR. SHANAHAN:  We're going to talk about it.  

Yeah, that's good.  Thank you.