Council on Foreign Relations: A Conversation with Ahmet Davutoglu

Ahmet Davutoglu and Marc Grossman

Federal News Service (FNS), Washington, DC
Wed. 14 Apr 2010
Rush Transcript

MARC GROSSMAN: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to today's Council on
Foreign Relations meeting. There are a couple of rules before I get
started that I've already talked to the Minister about and the most
important of them is please, please, please turn your cell phones
off. And we don't mean just on stun, off, as it interferes with the
rest of the electronics. So please turn them off. And I also wanted to
just say that this is a meeting that's on the record, and so we will
proceed on that basis.
What I'd like to do this evening if it would be acceptable to all of
you is to for 15 or 20 minutes here perhaps the Minister and I will
just engage in a little bit of conversation. And then I would open
after some time to all of you for your questions. Our only rule, as
the council says, is that once there's an end to this, which tonight
will be at 7:15, we're going to try to meet that so that the Minister
can get to his next obligation. Mr. Minister, we welcome you here.

FOREIGN MINISTER AHMET DAVUTOGLU: Thank you.

GROSSMAN: We thank you very much for coming. I think, as you can see
by the turnout here tonight this is about the importance of Turkey and
a great deal of interest in what you have to say. And so we welcome
you and we thank you very much --

DAVUTOGLU: Thank you.

GROSSMAN: -- for taking time to come here to the Council on Foreign
Relations. Now, Minister, what I would like to do is use my time, if I
could, and really to explore four categories of question. First, I'd
like to talk a little bit about U.S./Turkish relations, and then I'd
like to talk about Turkey in the region, which I know is of particular
importance to you, Turkey and Europe. And then I'd like to explore a
little bit, if we could, the domestic kind of foundations of Turkish
foreign policy and the domestic influences on Turkish foreign
policy. And if that wou
e acceptable to you, I'd like to start out that way.

DAVUTOGLU: Definitely, definitely.

GROSSMAN: So first, if I could I'd like to just focus in on
U.S./Turkish relations. And I'd like to know if we could hear your
view on what it is in your opinion that holds the United States and
Turkey together today? What's this relationship all about? I mean,
when I read about Turkish public opinion and I see this kind of
anxiety about the United States and I know here in the United States
people have anxiety about Turkey. People are asking sort of what's it
all for, and I'd like to know if you might be able to open your
remarks with something a little bit about that.

DAVUTOGLU: Thank you. First of all let me express my thanks and
gratitude for this excellent organization and kind invitation by the
Council on Foreign Relations. It is a great honor for me to meet with
you here. About Turkish/American relations, let me give you first an
academic answer, then a political one. Last year when President Obama
visited us, he used a very interesting concept.
At that time, as an academician then I listened to the speech. What is
the difference between strategic partnerships and modeled
partnerships? Then I came to the United States at that time. I was
chief advisor when President Obama visited us. When I came to the
United States, to Washington, in June I was Minister and I gave a
speech and I tried to give substance to this concept, how I understand
this modeled partnership.
Modeled partnership means it is not an ordinary strategic partnership,
something special. Why do we have such special character in our
relations? Then we have to identify the uniqueness of the United
States and the uniqueness of Turkey and the uniqueness of these
relations that it is a model. The uniqueness of the United States in
human history is the United States is the first global power in human
history which emerged far away from Africa or Asia, which is the main
land of human history.
Unlike like Roman Empire, Alexandrian Empire, Ottoman Empire, Chin
ial Empire, French, they all emerged either in Mediterranean or in
Africa or Asia. The United States is the first global power in human
history which emerged from this mainland separated by two oceans,
Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Then the challenge is how to have -- you
can close this gap of geographical discontinuity which makes the
United States strategy, American strategy a necessity of having a
system of alliance, a strong navy, but to see all the balance of power
in this (inaudible). This is the uniqueness of the United States.
What is the uniqueness of Turkey? Turkish uniqueness is just the
opposite, the geographical continuity. Not the discontinuity; Turkey
is right at the center of Afro-Euro-Asia, having multidimensional
characters of geopolitics. Turkey is a European country, an Asian
country, a Middle Eastern country, Balkan country, Caucasian country,
neighbor to Africa, Black Sea country, Caspian Sea, all these.
So all the main nuances of geopolitics are around Turkey and all these
geopolitical challenges are in the agenda of American global
strategy. So there is a compatibility between this American
geographical discontinuity -- which is an advantage at the same time
because America is safe of conventional attacks. Nobody can come here
-- there is -- these two oceans at the same time are protecting the
American continent.
Now what is the rationale behind this? These two countries, geography
and history are compatible. They are -- they are not competitive, and
America/United States needs allies in Africa Eurasia, and Turkey needs
a cooperation with a global power. This is one additional dimension is
that Turkish/American is one of the most institutionalized relations
which continued from the Cold War to post-Cold War politics.
So there is a continuation of institutionalization. This creates a
real special character for our bilateral relations. This is academic
--

GROSSMAN: No, no. (Laughs.)

DAVUTOGLU: No, I maybe come to both classes.

GROSSMAN: I'll give you a chance to give the political answe
UTOGLU: (Laughs.)

GROSSMAN: And that is if -- I take the point that you make, which is
you have two unique -- two unique cultures and strategies that
complement one another. From my perspective in the U.S./Turkish
relationship, maybe the next greatest challenge will be Iran. And in a
sense, you have the lines that you've just laid out come together in
trying to figure out what to do about Iran. And I noticed, for
example, when the prime minister was in Iran a few weeks ago and gave
an interview to the BBC about his views about the Iranian nuclear
program.

DAVUTOGLU: The Iran prime minister was not in Iran a few weeks ago.

GROSSMAN: But he gave a -- I know he gave an interview --

DAVUTOGLU: Yeah, maybe -- maybe interview.

GROSSMAN: -- about the Iranian nuclear program. And I was interested,
given the importance of Iran to the U.S./Turkish relationship and how
these lines come together what your assessment of the last two days
was here in Washington at the nuclear summit, particularly on the
issue of Iran. And if you heard anything here that made you sort of
clarify or consider the Turkish position?

DAVUTOGLU: Yeah. Let me connect this academic analysis to political
environment through -- underlining another point. Last year again
before the President Obama's visit I came to Washington as chief
advisor to prepare the visit and to consult with our American
colleagues. Then when I came back I made a statement. I said
Turkish/American relations will be having a golden age in front of us
because both in the sense of substance and methodology the policies of
the Obama administration and Turkish our armaments policies are
identical and same.
Why? Because Turkey wants a multilateral approach. Turkey wants a
policy of engagement exactly like President Obama's new
approach. Policy of engagement, less confrontation, less tense
attitude, especially in the region. When I went to look from a Turkish
perspective to Middle East, for example, where Iran is there of
course, we have a clearer policy of common security fr
Middle East, political dialogue, economic interdependency and
multicultural -- multisectarian coexistence.
And this substance is compatible with the preferences of Obama
administration. So our approaches are similar. In the case of Iran, we
know it is an important issue for all of us. Again, we have certain
principles there which I want to underline. Our foreign policy is a
value-oriented foreign policies, not just interest or short-term
interest foreign policy. We identified and we are still underlining
three basic principles on the Iranian nuclear program.
The first principle is obtaining nuclear technology for peaceful
purposes is a right of all nations. There should not be any limit for
peaceful nuclear technology, development of peaceful nuclear
technology. What is the limit of this is NPT agreement and IAEA
regulations. Everybody must respect these two, and as Turkey we are
committed to these international arrangements and regulations. And we
expect everybody to commit to this.
But if a country commits to this and implements this, there should not
be any limit on obtaining this one. Secondly, Turkey is against
nuclear weaponry systems -- wherever they are, for which purpose, any
country that has these. There cannot be any legitimacy for this
because not our generation but our fathers' generation, mothers'
generation, they chose -- they experienced this in Nagasaki and
Hiroshima. And we don't want to see such a nuclear arms race in world
politics.
And a subprinciple of this is we don't want to have nuclear weapons in
our region. The Middle East must be a nuclear-free zone. In the Middle
East we have enough reasons for tensions -- competition, multi -- the
characters, all this. There should not be any other reason. And we
made this very clearly to our neighbor Iran and the Iranian
administration that Turkey is against any nuclear weaponry system.
Third principle is if there is a dispute the correct way -- the best
-- the most feasible way, at least, to resolve this conflict is
diplomatic negotiation. Diploma
iplomacy. Not military tension, not economic sanctions, which will
affect Turkey as a neighboring country. We had an experience in the
past with Iraq -- you know very well, you were in those days in Turkey
-- who suffered most because of this military tension or economic
sanctions in Europe? Turkey, because of being a neighbor.
Now, in the region we want to have a new era, a new era of stability,
peace and prosperity. Therefore we are giving the correct messages to
Iranian neighbors, and Turkish/Iranian relations is special in the
sense that for almost 350 years we have the same borders. These are
two strong state traditions in our region and in Iran, as you know
Mark, one third of the Iranian population speaks Turkish. And Tehran
is the second-biggest Turkish speaking country after Istanbul. It's
the city, of course. Sorry. We don't think -- (inaudible, laughter.)
City, of course.
So there is a close cultural geographical link. Therefore we want to
have a solution through diplomacy, but we will never tolerate the
development of nuclear weapons in our next door. These are the basic
principles that we are doing, and based on these principles in the
last six, seven months after September I can say Iranian nuclear
program has been at the top of our agenda. I visited several times
Tehran. We tried -- the first visit -- my first visit was on the 13th
of September, and I was the first minister visiting Iran after the
formation of the new government.
The purpose of visit was to convince the Iranian administration to
start the new -- meet -- negotiations with Solana. And during my
visit, after our diplomatic initiative, they agreed to hold a meeting
in Genoa on the 1st of October. From Tehran I called Mr. Solana that
now Iranians are ready to make this meeting so that he should
call. And in two days we fixed the date and venue for that meeting.
And 1st of October meeting was one of the most successful meetings
between Iran and P-5 plus 1. And this TRR exchange was proposed there
by the Iranian side. It created a positive
o go into details here, there was a -- there was a mutual mistrust how
to make this exchange possible, where and when?
Because of this mutual absence of confidence, Iran wants to make the
exchange in Tehran, P-5 plus 1 wants to get Iranian LEU out of Iran
first, then do the -- process it and give it back. (Inaudible) made a
creative proposal. If both sides do not trust each other -- Iranian
doesn't want to give LEU, the P-5 plus 1 doesn't want to keep it in
Iran -- there was -- the proposal was that this should be delivered to
Turkey as a deposit, stay in Turkey, and then after preparations we
can make the exchange. That's -- therefore, we became -- we haven't
made anything on this deal for last four or five months.

GROSSMAN: Well, I think it's really important. It's important first
for the United States and then, obviously, in your connection to the
Security Council.
One of the things I'd like -- one of the other questions I'd like to
ask, which bridges between U.S.-Turkish relations and obviously
relations in the region, and I think has a lot to do with your point
on less confrontation, more engagement, is relationships with
Armenia. I mean, obviously, that's a very important point for you and
the United States, for the American Congress.
But I'd be interested, sir, in how you believe this affects the
U.S.-Turkish relationship -- the U.S.-Turkish relationship, first of
all, and then if you could give us any insight into the status of the
Turkish-Armenian relationship, because it seems to me how things go in
the United States are very intimately related by progress that you are
making between Turkey and Armenia in opening the land border, for
example.

DAVUTOGLU: First of all, of course, we don't see any logic why
Armenian issue should be an issue between Turkey and the United
States. And Turkey and Armenia are two neighbors, and Turkish and
Armenian nations live together for centuries. We can speak each
other. If we disagree, we can speak. We can have dialogue. But we
don't think that it should be an element
But, unfortunately, we observe in last one month it's -- it is -- it
has affected such negatively that almost one month there was no
political consultations between two strategic allies despite of --
there are many issues to be -- which we need to consult with each
other.
About the Turkish-Armenian relation, again, we have -- we developed a
principle. In 2003, we declared zero problems with our neighbors, and
we made a huge progress in that sense with all the neighbors. Recently
-- I can give you a very good example -- last week, acting minister of
foreign affairs of Greece was in Turkey as my guest, and we decided to
establish high-level strategic council meeting between Turkey and
Greece, which means joint cabinet meeting, and our prime minister will
visit Athens next month with 10 ministers, and we will have a joint
cabinet meeting. It was impossible to imagine 10 years ago that Turkey
and Greece would have such a close relation.

GROSSMAN: Can you imagine that with Armenia some day?

DAVUTOGLU: Yes. Therefore, I am giving this example. Why not with
Armenia?
In 2003, we started a new policy. We opened airspace. When we became
government -- as a (party ?) government, there was no air connection,
air transport between Yerevan and Istanbul. First, we opened that air
transport. We opened airspace. Without asking anything from Armenia,
unilaterally we made many gestures.
In 2005, Prime Minister Erdogan wrote a letter to President Kocharyan
after a decision of our parliament that two nations should start a new
reconciliation through a new tool, establishing a joint historical
commission to discuss everything. Unfortunately, we didn't receive a
positive reply, neither a negative reply, but after a while, through
the good office of Switzerland, we started to have this confidential
process, and at the end of this process, we were able to first
initial, then sign these protocols.
Our vision is clear. We want to implement zero problem policy with
Armenia. Like even with Greece previous, we had problems, but we did
ever
d yes for a peace. With Armenia, so we want to resolve this issue. We
want to -- we don't want a poor neighbor next door to us and -- which
is a source of instability. We want a prosperous Armenia. We want all
our neighbors to be prosperous and peaceful with us.
When we signed this agreement, that was our vision, not only between
two nation states. We want to have -- the second object -- it was we
want to have a reconciliation, a new era between two new nations --
not states, two nations -- Turkish and Armenian nations, wherever they
are, in Los Angeles, in Paris, in other countries so that they can sit
and they can share their historical background. We are ready to listen
our Armenian friends, neighbors about our history.
I used a concept in Zurich during the signature
settlement. Unfortunately, we were -- I was not able to deliver that
speech because Armenian colleague, my dear friend Nalbandyan, didn't
want -- I mean, (Mitchell's (ph) speeches.) It is okay. But I used a
concept, just memory. Everybody must -- everybody has his own memory,
but nobody should impose his memory as a -- one-sided memory on the
other side.
1915 for Armenians -- maybe that Armenian issue, but for us, it means
Gallipoli. For us, it means around 2 million Turks had to migrate --
forced to migrate from Balkans, from Caucasia in three, four years. So
it was a tragedy of the collapse of Ottoman Empire, and we are ready
to share this. But we are not ready and they we never accept
politicization of history through the parliaments when some -- I mean,
23 once (vote ?) and say yes, 22 no.
Assume that one was on this side. Would that mean that history had
another destiny or another interpretation? This is -- this is not
logical. This is not ethical and intellectual. Now, this was the
second reason.
The third reason was we want to have a new Caucasia based on the same
principle which I underlined for Middle East, a Caucasia that we have
a common security framework, respect to territories, economic
interdependency, which means we will open the b
o as the Armenian borders to be open that there should be a new era of
economic interdependency in Caucasia, multicultural coexistence and
political dialogue. That's what we want to achieve.
So it is not just one step. It is a vision which we have to walk
together with our Armenian neighbors, colleagues hand in hand for this
vision.

GROSSMAN: I think another place where -- in the region where that also
is true, where you want to have a successful neighbor, is Iraq, and
many of those same principles apply. And I wondered, Minister, whether
you want give us the benefit of your view of what happened in the
Iraqi election, what comes next, because in a sense, I can't think of
a country that would be more benefited from a successful Iraq than
would -- than Turkey, and whether you think kind of specifically
whether there's a possibility to continue the effort, especially in
the North, with the Kurds to defeat the PKK so that that relationship
also becomes more successful both for Iraqis and for Turkey.

DAVUTOGLU: Yeah, that's -- this principle really is applicable and
should be applied to Iraq. Iraq for us is very important neighbor, and
Iraq is a country of -- like a mini model of the Middle East. In
post-Cold War era, three countries faced big challenges, and there
were interventions or domestic problems. One was Yugoslavia; the
second one was Iraq; the third one, Afghanistan.
The common characters of these three countries are oldest three
countries historically were buffer zones, geopolitical buffer
zones. They were -- they are economy transaction, and, more important,
they are mini models of the respective regions. Yugoslavia was a mini
model of Balkans. We had all ethnicities of Balkans religious groups
in Yugoslavia; similar, Afghanistan of Central Asia and Indian
subcontinent; and Iraq is a mini model of Middle East. You have all
the groups -- Arabs, Kurds, Turkomans, Shi'ites, Sudanese, (Assyrians
?), Chaldeans, Christians. They are all living together.
Therefore, we have to manage this properly. And the re
ss from our perspective. That's -- and we have to congratulate Iraqi
people because of their participation to elections. And it gives --
there are two lessons to all the sides of Iraq
As Turkey, we want to have an Iraqi politics, not sectarian- or
ethnic-based, more political -- based on political different
alternatives or preferences, but the results in success of Raqia (ph)
-- a mixed political coalition of Shi'ites and Sunni Arabs and other
Turkoman, Christians, were there -- show that what Iraq needs today is
a more cosmopolitan politics, let me say.
But, at the same time, it was a signal to Shi'ite parties as well that
there cannot be a purely Shi'ite-dominated Iraqi politics. It was a
message to Sunnis that they can be successful in politics only if they
cooperate with Shi'ites. And there was a message to Kurdish parties
that they should be less ambitious in the sense of their relations
with other parties. For example, in Kirkuk, it was 6 to 6, or in Mosul
and the other.
So, now, everybody should get this in a positive way. We have
excellent relations with all these groups, with all these
parties. Recently, before coming here Saturday, I received three
groups from Iraq -- (Sadrist ?) -- groups, Osama (ph) -- (inaudible)
-- from Hudba (ph), and also from Raqia (ph) is Desabi (ph), and
before that, Nechirvan Barzani came to Turkey. We are consulting with
all the parties, and when I go back to Turkey, same evening on Sunday,
I will be -- we will be hosting -- (inaudible) and other groups.
Our advice to all these groups are there should be a new Iraqi
politics because this new parliament and this new government will be
the constructive -- the main construction of Iraq will be done with --
by these parliaments. So a mutual trust, a new approach of coalitions
will be very helpful. I am optimistic. And we are working very hard
with Iraqi leaders, with Prime Minister Maliki, all the leaders, so
that there will be a good atmosphere in Iraq.
Just a last note, I am sure you follow, in October, Turkish -- our
prime min
of the cabinets -- we went to -- (inaudible) -- which was a political
risk, because some said how can you take all these ministers, half of
the Cabinet, in such a security risk because there were several
bombardments in those days, and we signed 48 agreements in one day
between Turkey and Iraq. We want to have full integration between --
economic integration between Turkey and Iraq and in Turkey and all
other neighbors so that this economic interdependency will create an
atmosphere of peace.

GROSSMAN: Thank you very much.
I don't want to dominate this. I want to make sure, though, that as we
go forward here in the questions, I hope we can take up the questions
of Turkey-Israel relations, Turkey's relations with the European
Union, and very importantly, Minister, I hope also you can find a way
to talk a little bit about the domestic scene in Turkey. I know one of
the things that a number of people asked me as I came in was could --
you know, can anybody explain Ergenekon to me -- (laughter) -- and I
think that would be a very useful and good thing.
But let me just sort of open up the questioning here. Yes? Please?
Here. This gentleman here. Go ahead. If you'd -- oh, Tom Miller
(sp). If you'd stand up and introduce yourself and then keep your
questions short, I'd appreciate it.

QUESTIONER: You just introduced me. Tom Miller (sp).

GROSSMAN: That's right. I've never seen you so dressed up.

QUESTIONER: Well, you know, I did it for you, Mark.
Mr. Minister, in a few days, there's going to be elections in Northern
Cyprus, and you did -- I was kind of waiting for you not to say
anything about Cyprus, but you did, and I'd like to just get your
thoughts on -- it's now 35 years -- your thoughts on the future -- I'm
not asking you to predict the elections, unless you want to, but more
--

DAVUTOGLU: I don't want to.

QUESTIONER: -- more broadly, your thoughts on the future on finding
the result in the Cyprus problem.

GROSSMAN: Thank you. Sir.

DAVUTOGLU: Thank you for this question.
You know, in Cyprus, we had a
in 2004, I am sure you remember with the initiative of Prime Minister
Erdogan asking Kofi Annan, at that time U.N. Secretary-General, to
start a new process in January in -- (inaudible). Then we had very
intensive negotiations in Burgenstock in Switzerland. I was there in
Turkish delegation, and it was a real success story, maybe first time
a frozen conflict would have been resolved through negotiations and
through U.N. mediation. It would have been a great success for
U.N. system. That's what happened the first time. A referendum was
held.
But what happened, after this intensive talks, we agreed on a plan,
all the four parties -- Turkey, Greece, Greek Cypriots, Turkish
Cypriots -- and we went back home assuming that all of us will tell to
our people that they should support this peace. Turkey side did
so. President, at that time he was not president, but Talat was there
as the negotiator. He went back, he said, please, yes. Say yes. Turkey
supported yes, but suddenly late, Papadapoulos, although he agreed the
plan in Switzerland, when he went back, he said -- he campaigned for
no.
At the end of these campaign, Turkish Cypriot side said yes with 65
percent, Greek Cypriot side said no with 75 percent. It was a failure
of the peace effort. As I said, if that was successful, it would have
been an excellent example for other frozen conflicts, as you said, 35
years, for other frozen conflicts that U.N. can mediate, produce an
alternative and create a peace.
Whom should you blame for this? Those who said yes or those who said
no? Normal human logic states those who said yes should be awarded,
those who said no should be punished. What happened? Those who said no
became member of EU, European Union, and those who said yes continued
to be isolated. In the last six years, there was no single promise
fulfilled which was given to Turkish Cypriots was fulfilled by EU or
U.S. or International Community or U.N. It is an unjust.
Believe me, I am not saying this as a minister, as somebody who worked
in many mediation efforts, li
I feel so upset and feel so unjust because of this attitude by
International Committee to us Turkish Cypriots. In the last two years,
again, when Christofias became president, we became very optimistic,
very hopeful, and we encouraged Talat for a new initiative and they
met more than 60 times. But unfortunately, the Greek Cypriot side
always said no timeline, no UN intervention. No. Just we can sit and
talk, open-ended talks. Despite of this, in January, the Turkish
Cypriot side made a new proposal and accepted closed voting, which was
the main request of Greek Cypriot side. But still, there was no
breakthrough.
In spite of that, we will continue to work very hard to encourage the
Turkish Cypriot side for a comprehensive settlement. But as it has
been said, we cannot do tango one side. We have to have a real
counterpart to have a peace. But there is no incentive from the Greek
Cypriot side because they don't need the peace. They are
comfortable. Because they are sure that they will be behave favorably
by International Committee, again and again.
Again and again, they will be said, okay, even if you say no, no
problem. You will be our respected counterpart. There is no
incentive. Therefore, these elections are important. I will not make
any, of course, as you said, assessment of the elections because
Turkish Cypriots have a strong democratic tradition. They had many
elections in the past. They will show they are a democratic maturity
in these elections, and we hope that it will be strengthening
democracy in northern Cyprus.

GROSSMAN: Thank you very much. Yes, Steve.

QUESTIONER: Steve Solarz.

Mr. Minister, you've made it fairly clear that you would prefer to see
a negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear issue. Of course, there
have been many efforts to resolve the problem through negotiations,
which so far haven't produced a positive result. And my impression is
that it's now the view of President Obama and his administration, as
well as others, that the best way of getting a negotiated solution is
to inc
Iran. If the five permanent members of the Security Council, over the
next several weeks, can actually agree on a sanctions resolution, how
is Turkey, as a member of the Security Council, likely to vote on such
a resolution?

DAVUTOGLU: First of all, I still believe that there is a possible
diplomatic solution. Because, I cannot give the details, but I know
where we are, about TRR especially, -- (inaudible) -- and in the last
four months, we made significant progress in those negotiations. We
think that there is a chance, but -- and even President Obama several
times repeated that despite of -- despite, they are working for
sanctions, still the door is open for diplomacy.
For us, that door should be kept open and we want to enter, use that
door, because Turkey is not an ordinary country. Turkey is the only
neighboring country of Iraq -- of Iran in United Nations Security
Council. I don't want to give you any name of any country, but a
country far away, thousands of miles away from Iran, can easily decide
for a sanction. I don't mean, United States. Please, don't
misunderstand me. An anonymous country. But Turkey, as a neighboring
country, having so many interests as well as so many connections, it
is, we have serious concerns about this.
For example, on the energy issue, Iran is our second source of natural
gas, and our economy is growing. And in almost all cities, we are
using natural gas. And everybody is looking now for their own initial
interest for the diversification of the energy supply. We have
excellent relations with Russia, but we don't want to be depending
only on Russia. We want to have an alternative energy source for
natural gas. This is a very legitimate reason.
And Iran is the only way for us to reach to Central Asia, in which we
have historic, strategic relations. There are many issues we have to
have, we have to think twice, three times, regarding Iran. Second,
therefore, we will continue to work on diplomacy. Because it is not
trying to defend Iran. It is our national interest. We don't want
s, new polarizations, new military threats in our region. Neither to
Iran nor from Iran to other states.
We want to have a new Middle East. We want to have a new Caucasia,
Central Asia. And Iran is right at the center of Caucasia, Central
Asia and Middle East. So Iranian politics will affect all these three
regions, which we have strategic interests. Secondly, we don't know
what is the package of sanctions. We are a member of United Nations
Security Council. Until now, we didn't get any briefing. We were not
consulted, and we don't know what is the package. And now you are
asking a question on a package which I don't know the substance. How
can I say now about, with all these concerns, plus we don't have any
idea about these sanctions.
Maybe the P5, they are consulting among themselves. Of course, we are
not against this, but we don't know the content. When there was
sanctions against Iraq, we had this experience before. Therefore, the
Turkish people, because of our situation, our memory is strong. In
that, before the sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s, Iraq was the
main trade partner of Turkey. After the sanctions, Turkish-Iraqi trade
was zero dollars. Who compensated this? We had to face many economy
crisis in the 1990s because of the decrease, not only inside Turkey,
but especially in southeastern Turkey, which economy was linked to the
Iraqi economics.
And because of that economic deterioration, there was a proper ground
for terrorist activities. We don't want to see these around us. Of
course, we don't want Iran to be a nuclear, having nuclear
weapons. Now these two objectives should be achieved together. At that
time, we were not U.N. Security Council member. We were just ordinary
neighbor of Iraq but we were consulted about these sanctions. Until
now, I am saying, we didn't have any idea what are the sanctions, just
an idea, a general idea that there should be new sanctions. Now how
can you expect me to say yes or not to what, about something which I
don't know.

GROSSMAN: Thank you very much. Steve Larr
, Rand Corporation.
In your opening remarks, you laid out a vision for Turkish-Armenian
reconciliation. But it's hard, it seems to me, to see how you're going
to get there, given the fact that you have linked further progress in
the reconciliation and normalization of relations with progress on
resolving or settling Nagorno Karabakh.
The Armenians have said, your counterpart has said, that they will not
ratify the protocols unless the protocols are ratified first by your
parliament, which does not look likely to be the case in the near
future. Can you now spell out how you see this going forward, which,
because it seems to be at a stalemate, if not ready, on the verge of
collapse.

DAVUTOGLU: I am, by nature, I am an optimistic person because somebody
told me once, a journalist, when I speak with you that you are always
optimistic. How can you be so in that difficult political issues? She
asked this. I said, if you don't believe something yourself, you
cannot convince others to believe. I strongly believe that this
normalization will be achieved. And when, or why I am optimistic in
this type of process is, if you take a picture of today, you may see
only the difficulties.
Or in another day, like the 11th of October, when we signed, you can
see always only the positive sides, maybe. But instead of analyzing
the picture itself, you have to analyze the process. I know from where
we came to this point. If you compare today with three years ago, when
there was no dialogue between Armenia and Turkey, if you compare today
with last year today, when there was even no initial (document ?)
between Turkey and Armenia, today we made a huge progress. Of course,
from the first day of our negotiations, we were knowing as Turks,
Armenian colleagues and friends, they were knowing as Armenians that
there would be many difficulties in front of us.
It depends on your political will and vision, whether you will
overcome these difficulties and try to achieve the goal. We will
continue.
Before coming to Washington, prime minister sent
ry to Yerevan, carrying a message. In fact, this message was supposed
to rescind their early -- (inaudible). Before, when the committee
decision was taken here in the Congress, we had to postpone this. And
that message was sent. The message was clear.
We are respecting the basic value, pacta sunt servanda. We are
committed to this normalization and we will do it. But at the same
time, together with Armenia, we have to prepare the political
atmosphere, the political psychology, let me say, in both of the
countries in order to get yes from our parliaments, both in Yerevan
and in Ankara. And in our parliament, in order to get yes, we cannot
afford negative results. We have to prepare the grounds, patiently and
in coordination with our Armenian colleagues. If we prepare this, the
Nagorno Karabakh issue, as the Armenian dispute, of course, that will
help, the resolution of that conflict will help to our process.
We are not establishing like a prep condition. No. But we know in
Caucasia, the Middle East and the Balkans, all these issues are
interrelated, this way or the other way. If there is a positive
momentum, both, all these processes are being affected positively. If
there is a negative momentum, then there will be a domino effect,
which will make everything negative. Now we are working for the
positive result and I am optimistic. We will achieve this. You will
see.

GROSSMAN: We've got about eight minutes left, and my proposition here
is to take three or four questions --

DAVUTOGLU: Together and then I will be, okay.

GROSSMAN: Together if you can be, make them short.

DAVUTOGLU: I will do that.

GROSSMAN: Yes, sir in the back.

QUESTIONER: (Inaudible) -- welcome to Washington. You have many
friends here. Of those of us who are great admirers of Turkey, we're
very curious about what is happening internally. The chairman
mentioned this. We're hearing stories about arrests, long-term
withholding people in prisons without any trial. This is so different
from what we have come to think of Turkey that there's -
friends are very upset and very worried about what is happening
inside Turkey, and for us Arkadaslar of Turkey, we are worried, so
please --
(Cross talk.)

QUESTIONER: Ari Burke here. Mr. Minister, when you talked about Iran
and the Middle East, you said you wanted a nuclear -- (inaudible) --
and your prime minister, every time the issue of Iran is raised it
brings up (Israeli nuclear weapons ?) and points to that as being the
cause. What I'm curious here is two things. One, Turkey is a nuclear
power. You have 19 nuclear weapons, Cold War weapons.

QUESTIONER: We can't hear him.

GROSSMAN: Oh, we're going to switch mikes.

QUESTIONER: Let me repeat that. Look, Turkey has 19 nuclear weapons,
all tactical weapons left over from the Cold War, which are, from what
I understand, quite useless. Does this mean you're going to get rid of
them?
And two, when you bring up the question of Israel, why don't you ever
bring up the issue of Pakistan, which is actually a neighbor of Iran,
has an overt nuclear program but Pakistan is not a member of the NPT.

GROSSMAN: Okay, one here and then Carol (inaudible). Yes, sir.

QUESTIONER: My name is Ralston Deffenbaugh. I'm interested in the
situation of the ecumenical patriarchate in Turkey and what are the
politics of hosting the ecumenical patriarch, and would it be possible
in future to allow a new patriarch not to have to be a Turkish
citizen?

GROSSMAN: Thank you. Carol.

QUESTIONER: Thank you. Turkish-Israeli relations have had a bumpy road
lately. I wonder if you would give us your idea of the outlook and the
prospects for those bilateral ties?

GROSSMAN: Okay, answer all those questions.

DAVUTOGLU: Thank you. Maybe the domestic issue I will answer at the
last so that the other questions are interlinked. About first the
nuclear issue: these are the principles which I mentioned and we will
follow. We are in favor of nuclear disarmament. In fact, everybody is
in favor of peace. President Obama also issued - that's part of the
reason why we had this summit, so if ther
issues in Turkey have to be resolved in that package.
It is part of that issue, but the difference between Israel, Iran and
Turkey is we are partner or part of NPT. We are loyal to NPT and it is
not -- the nuclear capacity you mentioned is not our national
capacity. It is -- we don't have any nuclear warhead or anything, any
nuclear weapon or system in national capacity. We don't have such a
thing.
We are subject to NPT and we want all the countries subject to NPT. If
NPT is important for the future of humanity, there should not be an
exclusion. Both Iran -- I mentioned this -- and Iran must restrict
their -- they are member of IAEA, they are party of NPT. Israel is not
member of -- is member of IAEA but not part of NPT. We hope that there
will be a common criteria in our region and hopefully in the world
that everybody will respect the same principles, based on the same
framework. Turkey doesn't have any ambition for having nuclear
weaponry system.
And we hope that there will be nuclear disarmament and we will achieve
this together. It is a more global issue in that sense. Pakistan, that
is an issue of subcontinent. Nobody thinks that there is an arms race
between Pakistan and Iran on nuclear issue. It is more Pakistan-India
balance of power. We implement the same principles there.
Why we don't include Pakistan? Because it is not considered as
competition between Iran and Pakistan, but usual contrast in the
Middle East is Iran and Israel, not Iran and Pakistan. But we hope
that Pakistan and India, they will have the same principles to be
implemented there. We don't have any exception here. The principles
should be applicable to all.
About our relations with Israel, first of all, in general, one of the
historical issues in history is Turkish-Jewish relations --
(inaudible) -- two nations. And through all of history we had
excellent relations with Jews, and Turkey has been always a safe haven
for Jews whenever they faced problems in Europe or other parts of the
world. Still, this is for us an humanitarian issue.
is, we are against it.
Our relations with Israel has been a good relation throughout the
decades. Why and how it has, unfortunately, deteriorated in just one
year is clear. In 2008, Turkey was the most reliable state for Israeli
government so that Israeli government, they agreed that Turkey should
be the mediator between Israel and Syria. Personally, I was the person
who ran those mediations between two sides.
Several times I went to Israel with a confidential mission, to Syria,
in order to achieve a peace, and here I am really admiring the
attitude of Israeli delegations in those day who worked with us during
negotiations and Prime Minister Olmert with full vision to achieve
that peace and Syrian colleagues who worked with us. They did an
excellent, proficient, ethical work together with us.
So in 2008, our relation was very good, so good that they trust Turkey
as mediator. What happened -- and today we have problems because when
we were almost completing indirect talks between Israel and Syria and
when we were preparing to start direct talks on Monday after two days,
Saturday there was an attack against Gaza. An attack which created --
almost 1,500 people were killed, 5,000 people were injured and this
was a disaster.
It was a disrespect to Turkey, as well. When we were working for that
and in principle - before these negotiations we agreed with Syria and
Israel that during those negotiations, Lebanon and Gaza must be
quiet. So it was not only a humanitarian issue, but it was Prime
Minister Olmert was in Ankara four days before the attack, suddenly
this --
That was the beginning of a problem.
And several times we tried to send a message to the Israeli side that
they should come back to the negotiating process and the humanitarian
situation in Gaza should be improved. Today still we have a
humanitarian disaster in Gaza. Thousands of people do not have any
shelter for one year and not only Israel, all international
communities have ethical responsibilities on this issue.
We have to work for that. Gaza today is ph
on't want such a humanitarian tragedy. If Israel changes the policy in
positive way, starting responding to Obama administration for peace
negotiations, responding to the call of international community that
negotiations with Palestinians should start, settlements should be
frozen, there should not be provocations in Jerusalem to the holy
places of Muslims, there will be no problem between Turkey and Israel.
Tomorrow we can restart talks between Israel and Syria and everything
will be much better than before. But nobody should think that our
policy is against the people of Israel or against all the governments
of Israel.
It was particularly against a policy of the Israeli government at that
time attacking against Gaza and afterwards continuing the policy by
the new government, a policy of not responding to the calls for
diplomacy and peace process. But we hope that these processes will
start soon and our relations with Israel will be improved as well.
About the patriarchy, as an intellectual, as a human being, as
somebody who knows history, for me, respect to religious institutions
and respect to the right of belief is one of the basic, basic values
of humanity and of Turkey. Therefore, it is our obligation to have
religious freedom. And we will work to improve the situation in all of
this. Not only for the Greek Orthodox, for other religious groups as
well.
But patriarchy, according to the international law, according to the
agreement between Turkey and Greece, patriarchy became a Turkish
institution according to laws and agreements. This is the agreement
what we have, and Turkish -- the patriarch should be -- like other
religions, not only for Christians, at that time even today for Muslim
majority, as well, there cannot be such ecumenical type of independent
organization. It is part of the national institutions.
When there was an issue of having a patriarch from outside, Turkey
automatically gave citizenship to that patriarch. In the past that was
the application and recently in the -- (inaudible) -- Synod ass
ere not members of -- citizens of Turkey, we allowed them to vote, and
now we are planning to give them Turkish citizenship if they want --
some members of -- (inaudible) -- Synod to come and work in
patriarchate. This is basically what we are working for and we with
respect to all these religious institutions because they are our
institutions, as well as Turkey.
The last question, which is domestic. First of all, about the recent
developments regarding constitutional reform, Turkey has a strong and
deep history of constitution, starting from 1876. We have several
constitutional eras, let me say; 1921, 1924, 1969 to '92 and now. From
our perspective, the existing constitution, which was adapted after
military intervention in 1918, does not reflect or respond to the
needs of Turkish society and modern standards of human rights and
democracy.
We want to have constitutional reform in order to achieve a new
constitutional framework based on the basic values and to extend the
zone of democratic freedom and human rights. In this reform package
you have some reforms on labor unions, on many other issues, all of
them have main intention, the main objective that the zone of freedom
and human rights should be strengthened.
If you ask my opinion, in fact, we need a new constitution based on
universal standards, based on true civilian foundation, so this is the
main agenda today, and we hope that through these reforms Turkey will
have a much higher level of democratic standards and the constitution
as a reference point of all political events reflected in Turkish
society.
About the case you said, I don't know. All these cases are legal
cases. There is no involvement from government. In Turkey prosecutors
are independent, court system is independent, and all these things are
going through objective standards and criteria of a judicial
process. Even if government wants, government cannot make an influence
on this.
But we will make, I mean, all the efforts that this process will go
smoothly as a court case, as you said, that ou
on trial, but it is not my responsibility or privilege to make any
comment on judicial process.

GROSSMAN: Well, you've given us some extra time.

DAVUTOGLU: I hope I didn't forget anything. I hope my memory was good.

GROSSMAN: We've already taken a little bit extra of your time. I just
wanted to do two things, which is to just recognize the two
ambassadors, Ambassador Jeffrey and Ambassador Tong (ph). Thank you
very much for joining us tonight and I hope you all would ---

DAVUTOGLU: Ambassador Wilson.
(Cross talk.)

GROSSMAN: The former ambassadors are just everywhere. (Laughter.) We
always try to recognize those with whom we served, and I hope you
would just join me in thanking Foreign Minister Davutoglu for
(applause) and for his answers.

DAVUTOGLU: Thank you.

GROSSMAN: Thank you very much.