Joint Press Conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul
FOREIGN MINISTER GUL: We are very pleased to host Secretary Powell in Turkey today. We are very pleased to see him in Turkey, as the Turkish government and also as the Turkish people. The visit of Secretary Powell has been very timely in answering those criticisms about the current situation of the Turkish-America relations. I would like to state that the Turkish-American relations are based on very strong foundations. They are deeply rooted and they are based on half a century of friendship. And our friendship with the United States (US) [has] also been mentioned in our consecutive government programs. Our friendship has begun with the Korean War effort, and it has continued up to the situation in Afghanistan.
Currently, we have a war in the region, which could not be prevented, unfortunately. And we hope that this war in Iraq does not last long, and it ends, it results, with minimum casualties for all sides. As everyone has been following, Turkey is within the coalition efforts, and the cooperation that has been conducted with the United States is within the framework of the Turkish constitution and undertaken upon the decisions of the government. You all know about the decision to allow overflights for coalition airplanes over Turkey, and the cooperation within these frameworks will continue with the United States.
When looked at the members of the coalition, it is easily noticeable that the cooperation between Turkey and the Unites States will continue. The cooperation—the means for further cooperation—with the United States have been discussed in today’s talks, and foremost the issue of humanitarian assistance was taken up. Other means of cooperation were also looked into, and the cooperation in northern Iraq was also taken up. This cooperation between the United States and Turkey will continue with regards to the future of Iraq as well. And new doors will open for us in the future. The model nature of Turkey with its democracy, its free market economy, is a model for all in the region. This reciprocal assistance will continue.
Finally, I would like to express that the visit of Secretary Powell has strengthened our relations, and it has increased the opportunities for future cooperation between both nations. I would like to state that this visit has also helped to dispel all issues with regards to the relations between both countries.
SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much Mr. Minister. It’s a great pleasure to be back in Turkey, and I have found that our conversations have been very fruitful—the conversations that you and I have had, as well as my conversations with the President and the Prime Minister—and I look forward to my conversations later this afternoon with the General Staff. Let me reaffirm what the Minister said. The US-Turkish relationship is a strong one. It has endured for over fifty years, and we have been with each other and for each other in war and peace over that fifty-year period. We especially treasure our relationship within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance.
Turkey is an important member of the coalition that is now aligned against the regime of Saddam Hussein. We were all disappointed—both the United States and the Turkish government—when we were unable to obtain the approval of the Turkish parliament on the first of March for a large package that we wanted to move through Turkey. But as a result of flexible planning and a great deal of skill on the part of our commanders, we have been able to work around that, and we are now deeply appreciative of the overflight clearances that have been provided by the parliament and the Turkish government.
The minister and I discussed other areas of cooperation, other needs we have now to sustain the forces—coalition forces—that are operating in northern Iraq. We have solved all of the outstanding issues with respect to providing supplies through Turkey to those units that are doing such a wonderful job in northern Iraq to keep the situation in northern Iraq stable. As the minister noted, we also agreed on means by which we can expedite the provision of humanitarian aid into northern Iraq and construction aid into northern Iraq, as the beginning of what I hope will be a very productive relationship between Turkey and Iraq as Iraq after the conflict goes about the process of rebuilding its society, rebuilding its country under new leadership, under a new government committed to democracy and protecting all of the people of Iraq.
Turkey will have an important role to play in this reconstruction effort, not only helping with direct reconstruction help, but also by the example that Turkey will provide to Iraq of a democracy—a Muslim democracy—living in peace with its friends and neighbors. Hopefully, that is the kind of Iraq we will be creating.
We also had a chance to discuss at some length concerns that Turkey has with respect to the situation in northern Iraq. As we all know, Turkey has been concerned about a potential rush of refugees toward the border as well as terrorist attacks that might be directed toward Turkey or an extension of control out of the Kurdish areas toward the south. In each one of these situations, I think we have been able to demonstrate to our Turkish friends that we are monitoring the situation closely, we have it under control, and therefore at the moment there is no need for any movement of Turkish forces across the border.
We have agreed today that we will rapidly form a coordination committee so that we monitor this closely. We will also develop ways in the next several days to ensure that we understand how we would respond to a problem that might arise in northern Iraq that might affect Turkish interest. All of this, I think, is in the spirit of cooperation, and it shows how Turkey is working so closely with the coalition. I gave the minister and the President and the Prime Minister an update on the campaign—Operation Iraqi Freedom. It is progressing well. It is a campaign that is being conducted with great skill and determination by coalition military forces. With each passing day, the Iraqi military becomes weaker and coalition forces become stronger.
It is just a matter of time before this conflict is brought to a successful end, and we can get on to the business of helping the Iraqi people build a better country, a better society, with democratic rule, creating a nation that will live in peace with its neighbors, that will use the wealth of Iraq—its oil—to benefit its people and not to develop weapons of mass destruction.
We also discussed all other aspects of our bilateral relations. We talked about the request that the President has put into the supplemental for one billion dollars to serve as an indication of America’s willingness to provide support to Turkey, to take any of the economic shock that might come from this current situation out of their economic system—something for them not to have to worry about because we will be able to provide some assistance through this supplemental. We also discussed the situation in Cyprus and our desire to see some progress in the days ahead, even though we had a bit of a setback a few weeks ago. So, all and all, I think it’s been a very productive trip that reinforces the US-Turkish relationship, and now I think the minister and I will be prepared to take some of your questions.
QUESTION: Can you give any other—you were quite specific—but could you give more instances of enhanced Turkish cooperation on the military side? For instance, we are hearing more help in rescue operations. And so far as this coordination—this council or this ongoing body—where do you get the Kurdish input into this? How do you make sure from the Kurdish side that there will be a lessening of tensions, no rush to the border?
SECRETARY POWELL: With respect to the kind of support we are getting, our principal area of discussion today had to do with supplies—food, fuel, other kinds of supplies that might go in. Once we are able to set up our forces in northern Iraq, then some of the issues with respect to search and rescue will be dealt with, because it could be handled out of northern Iraq.
On other matters, I know that the Turkish government will always act in a humanitarian way with respect to anybody who might be in distress at a particular time. With respect to the coordination group, we are working on that, and I hope in the next several days—within a week is the goal we put upon ourselves this morning—within a week we will have solved the issue of representation within the coordination group and, frankly, tensions have been lessened.
I think the concerns that everybody saw a few weeks ago that gave rise to all of these stories—about an incursion has occurred, it’s about to occur, things are going in the wrong direction—turned out not to be the case. As a result of close consultation, and as a result of the presence of our military personnel in the north, and the control that is being exercised by General Franks in the region, and our relationship with the Kurds, we have been able to stabilize the situation in a way that I think will keep the likelihood of a need for an incursion very much under control and a low probability. Nevertheless, since one can’t predict what might happen in the future, that’s why we also agreed today to create a process by which we’ll get early warning of a potential problem and begin responding as soon as we get early warning, and how the two sides could work together to deal with a situation that might arise.
QUESTION: The assistance by Turkey to the United States in the region in [the] humanitarian field, we understand will also extend to the logistics fields, and there is a request in this direction. Can we understand from your comments that the requests of the United States will be met? And my second question is: today, a hospital in Baghdad was hit, and as the war continues, we notice that more and more civilian targets have been hit. Can you comment on that please?
FOREIGN MINISTER GUL: The cooperation between Turkey and the United States has been going on and will continue. For instance, in the fields of providing foodstuffs and fuel and other humanitarian assistance facilities to the United States will continue. And these all will take place within the mutual understanding between both sides. For instance, we have been allowing airplanes in distress to land in Turkish airfields, and also for the evacuation of wounded people from the region to be brought in. So these are the assistances.
SECRETARY POWELL: I’m not aware of this specific incident that you made reference to, but I do know that our commanders are conducting this campaign in a way that is designed to minimize the loss of innocent life or destruction of property. As you look at these scenes on your television set, I think you will realize that we have been as careful as possible, as surgical as possible, as we can be in going after military targets and going after command and control targets that support the military forces of Iraq. That will continue to be our policy, and we regret any innocent loss of life that might occur either through our action and also the action of the Iraqi units that often fire indiscriminately, and air defense missiles that go up and then come down and cause damage within built-up areas. But I am not aware of the specific incident that you are making reference to.
QUESTION: What is your reaction to the American POW who was freed today?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well I’m absolutely delighted, and it’s a great joy to her family that she is now free. And it also attests to the skill of our soldiers in being able to get to her and to release her. I’m very, very pleased of course.
SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, we always regret loss of life. War is a terrible thing to be avoided. This war was caused by Saddam Hussein and his unwillingness to comply with his international obligations; a dictator who tortured people, who has brought devastation and destruction to his country, who developed weapons of mass destruction. Once this regime is gone, a better regime will be put in place—not just put in place, really, will create itself, will rise up. We will help it. But this will be a regime that comes up—it will be a government that comes up—out of the Iraqi people, representing all of the Iraqi people. We will help this government rise up, and as a government that we are confident will lead Iraq into a brighter future and create a country and a system that will live in peace with its neighbors and use the wealth of the nation to support people and not to support the production of weapons of mass destruction.
QUESTION: The first question to Minister Gul: For the cooperation to take place from now on, will there be a need for another motion. And the second question is to Secretary Powell…have you totally given up on the northern option? Is that no longer an option?
FOREIGN MINISTER GUL: The contents of the press motion [are] known, and whatever assistance that will be provided from now is within the jurisdiction of the Council of Ministers of the government. Therefore, another motion will not be needed.
SECRETARY POWELL: The northern option has changed shape. Instead of using the Fourth Division for that purpose, we have put special forces teams into the north and the 173rd airborne brigade. Whether other forces might at some point be introduced or not, or they’ll be coming up from the south, I will leave to the military commanders to decide. We are just now executing the northern option, that part of the campaign, in a different way then had originally been planned. But our planning is flexible, and we’ll respond to events as they occur, and I think we’re conducting this campaign in a very efficient way. I have utmost confidence in our campaign plan and in the commanders who are executing it.
* Editor’s Note: This joint press conference took place at the Foreign Minister’s Residence in Ankara, Turkey on April 2, 2003.
Secretary of State