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Turkey’s Relations with the US and the EU

Turkey and the United States have been vital to each other’s security and interests for many years and continue to work together to address today’s most formidable challenges. Our countries maintain a critically-important strategic partnership that is based on shared democratic values and an agenda for positive change with respect to regional and global issues of common interest.

Both countries have stood together on many occasions, from the Korean War to the Cold War, to today’s fight against terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and all forms of illegal trafficking, and the situations in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is a strong foundation for the future.

Events of recent years have confirmed that the Turkish-American alliance is critical in promoting security, stability and reform in the broader Middle East and North Africa, the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Black Sea region, the Balkans and Afghanistan.

As a testament to this fact, Secretary Rice and Foreign Minister Gül last summer concluded the Shared Vision document to further advance the Turkish-American strategic partnership and to translate our common ideas into joint action through effective cooperation and structured dialogue. In this document, the United States and Turkey affirm that strong common interests exist between the two countries in a variety of areas—ranging from combating terrorism to promoting reform efforts in the broader Middle East, from working toward a settlement of the Arab-Israeli question, to normalizing the situation in Iraq and from securing stability in the Caucasus and Central Asia to working toward a resolution of the Cyprus problem.

Obviously, our partnership must reflect today’s realities.

One significant change in the context of our relationship pertains to Turkey’s location at the crossroads of Europe and Asia.

The United States was the first to recognize Turkey’s central role in forging an alliance between civilizations. Turkey’s role in this regard derives from its democratic and secular constitutional order based on the rule of law. Turkey can serve as a model in the region, which extends from Central Asia to the broader Middle East and the Black Sea.

The United States also was the first to support Turkey’s growing strategic role in addressing the more traditional issues of our times. Energy security is a good example. US support has been essential to the diversification of the sources and routes of hydrocarbon energy supplies to the West. As a result, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan project is now a reality.

In addition to a long list of positive issues, the US-Turkish agenda also includes a short list of challenges.

One challenge to the further enhancement of US-Turkish relations relates to the draft resolution before the Congress on the events of 1915 in the Ottoman Empire. The events of 1915 constitute a tragic chapter in the history of the Turks and Armenians, who have lived together in peace for centuries. To determine what really happened, the Turkish government, with the unanimous support of its Parliament, has proposed that Turkey and Armenia establish a Joint Commission of Historians. We have opened our archives to historians, and we expect the same from Armenia. Turkey has no difficulty in facing its history. Unfortunately, Armenia has yet to respond positively to our initiative, which is still on the table.

At this moment, we hope that sound judgment will prevail and that the United States Congress will not allow this issue to become further politicized. History must be left to the historians. Rushing to conclusions that may be based on long-held prejudices will not only have an adverse effect on Turkish-American relations but also distort the truth. This would be ethically wrong and factually incorrect.

Iraq is another issue on which we frequently exchange views with the United States.

Turkey is a model neighbor. We are making a positive contribution in Iraq. Our aim is a democratic Iraq, maintaining its territorial integrity and national unity and living in peace with its neighbors. Our Neighborhood Initiative demonstrates that Turkey is pursuing policies designed to ensure the stability and territorial integrity of Iraq.

We believe that the status of Kirkuk is a sensitive and critical issue not only for Iraq but also for the region. It is obvious that attempts by a certain segment of Iraqi society to gain exclusive possession of Kirkuk, a microcosm of Iraq and the region with its complex ethnic structure, is not likely to be accepted by other groups in the country. Trouble in Kirkuk carries the risk of triggering turmoil which can spread to the entire region. Thus, it must be acknowledged that the future of Kirkuk is a matter of paramount importance to Turkey.

Moreover, the continuing existence of the terrorist organization, PKK/KONGRA-GEL, in northern Iraq poses a serious threat to the security of Turkey. Turkey is determined to fight the PKK and will not rule out any options. The global fight against terrorism mandates that no blind spots be left unattended. Our expectations from the United States and Iraq on this matter are of high priority and completely justified.

Turkey’s relations with the United States and with European Union are essential pillars of our foreign policy. These relationships are not mutually exclusive; they are complementary. Turkey appreciates US support for its aspirations to join the European Union.

The reforms that Turkey has undertaken in recent years have paved the way for progress in all areas, i.e. deepening of democracy, expansion of freedom and greater transparency. The EU’s October 2005 decision to launch accession talks with Turkey is recognition of Turkey’s efforts in this regard.

Turkey is determined to effectively implement reforms. However, to be able to successfully manage this process, Turkey also needs a stable international environment. That is the logic behind our active foreign policy that promotes stability, peace and reconciliation in the region. Indeed, no longer confined by the rigidity of the Cold War, Turkey increasingly reaches out to the countries in the region and encourages them to work for positive ends towards common values and ideals.

In this context, with its active and multi-dimensional foreign policy approach, which reflects positively on the region, Turkey is an asset for the United States, the European Union, and for the realization of transatlantic ideals and objectives.

Our relationship with both sides of the Atlantic is complementary and contributes to the revitalization of transatlantic cooperation. Turkey, as an EU member, will be an even stronger partner for the United States. The European Union, with Turkey as a member, will be more effective in cooperating with the United States towards common objectives.

Undoubtedly, the landmark point of departure vis-à-vis our relations with the European Union is the Ankara Agreement signed in 1963 establishing Turkey’s Associate Membership with the then-European Economic Community. Inherent in this Agreement is the clear recognition of Turkey’s aspirations toward full membership. Thus, regardless of the structural transformations that have led the Community to the Union since then, this Agreement constitutes the political, legal and moral basis of Europe’s commitment to Turkey.

Turkey’s application for full membership in 1987 and the establishment of the Customs Union at the end of 1995 have represented further milestones on the way to full integration with the European Union. The Customs Union, now in its 12th year, is an arrangement that no other candidate country has had with the Union prior to actual membership.

Thus, throughout this period, Turkey has had a unique and advanced relationship with the European Union and now seeks full membership at the end of accession negotiations. We realize that these negotiations will be long and arduous. Turkey, however, is ready to undertake the commitments required to achieve full membership.

The Cyprus issue should not be an impediment to Turkey’s EU membership. It is true that an historic opportunity was missed due to the overwhelming Greek Cypriot vote against the Annan Plan in 2004. It is also true that Cyprus’ accession to the EU, before a solution could be found, has further complicated the problem.

However, Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots are ready to find a solution. This solution must be achieved under UN auspices and within well-established UN parameters elaborated over the years.

Turkey has consistently pursued a traditional policy of forging enduring and institutional ties with Europe, as manifested by its membership to date in all, save one, organizations associated with the West. It is a founding member of the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and has been an indispensable member of NATO since 1952. The missing link in this equation so far has been full integration with the European Union.

Turkey is also a founding member of the United Nations (it is the only country to be represented in more than one regional group; Turkey is a full member of both the Western European and Others Group and the Asian Group). Turkey’s proven competence and capacity to contribute to regional and international peace and security, makes it a strong candidate for the Security Council where it has not been represented since 1961. Turkey has presented its candidacy for a non-permanent seat on the Council for the term 2009-2010, elections for which will be held during the 63rd General Assembly in 2008.

Today, Turkey’s dynamic society is engaging in a lively debate involving every aspect of social and democratic life. And, Turkey emerges as a country seeking its new role in the new millennium. This is an exciting and positive process during which Turkey needs the support of the United States and the European Union, as friends and allies.

Turkey is a major contributor to peace, security and stability in her broad region, but more so in cooperation with the United States and the European Union. The United States is a superpower with global influence, but more so in cooperation with Turkey. The European Union also needs the vital contribution of a player like Turkey. The challenges to our societies can best be tackled through robust cooperation between our countries.

One of the posters created to promote the Marshall Plan after World War II had a simple but striking message. It read “Whatever the Weather, We Must Move Together.” That should be the motto for US-Turkey and EU-Turkey relations.

Although the future may present new challenges, the Turkey-US relationship will remain strong as long as we respect one another and our interests.

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Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to the United States