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Daniel Fried IV CNN Turk: U.S.-Turkey Relations

U.S.-Turkey Relations

Daniel Fried, Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs
Interview with Yasemin Congar, CNN Turk
Washington, DC
July 6, 2006


Assistant Secretary Fried, at left, being interviewed by Yasemin Congar of CNN Turk. CNN Turk: Welcome to the program.

Ambassador Fried: Thank you.

CNN Turk: Thank you for being with us. Let me start by asking about this Shared Vision statement.

Ambassador Fried: Yes.

CNN Turk: It's quite a document. Tell me about the process of preparing that document. Was it really contentious? Was there a lot of fighting over it?

Ambassador Fried: It was not contentious; there was not a lot of fighting. In fact, of all the negotiations I've been in, this was one where both sides understood what the other side needed and we were both very careful to respect the other side's needs. We started working on this back when Secretary Rice and Minister Gul announced our intention to conclude this in Ankara. My colleague from the White House and I stayed behind to work on this with your Ambassador here, Ambassador Sensoy; we worked through it. We had a couple more sessions and back and forth, and discussions; but it was never, it never had midnight, high tension –

CNN Turk: So, no major disagreements –

Ambassador Fried: No.

CNN Turk: On the PKK, or Cyprus–

Ambassador Fried: Well, look. We know what Turkey wants on the PKK. The PKK is a terrorist organization. We want the PKK never to be a threat to Turkey or to Turks anywhere in the world. The PKK should not have a home in Iraq at all. We agree with Turkey, and I think the Turkish government knows we agree with them. So, the question here is how we express that. And on Cyprus, because the Turkish Cypriot community supports a unified island and supports a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, we were able to move to common language on this problem in a way that we could not have done, let us say, ten years ago.

CNN Turk: Ok, well, now we have this statement.

Ambassador Fried: Right.

CNN Turk: And we have the mechanisms. But, as Secretary Rice said in her press statement about this, this is also a document to remind both populations about the importance and strength of the relationship. How do you do this? How do you utilize this document as a tool of public diplomacy, if you will? I mean, do you see, for example, what is the Turkish side, as far as utilizing the document and telling it to the Turkish public, explaining it to the Turkish public?

Ambassador Fried: Well, it's not that we have demands or expectations of the Turkish side. Both of us will work together and use this document as a foundation for consultations and common actions where we have common interests, outlined in this document. It's not that we have expectations of Turkey; we both expect to be working together, and as we do, we hope that the Turkish public will see us working together and will become more comfortable with this.

CNN Turk: You know, I am asking about public diplomacy, you have seen the poll results –

Ambassador Fried: Of course.

CNN Turk: And these terrible ratings of the United States, I mean even of Americans are quite worrying about Turkey, unfortunately. Do you see a role for the U.S. Government, like, to win back the Turkish public?

Ambassador Fried: Well, we want to talk to the Turkish public as much as we can. Maybe we should have been doing a better job over the past five years. But, we will also show the Turkish public not just the words but the actions, the common actions with our Turkish friends. That alliance between Turkey and the United States brings results [inaudible].

CNN Turk: You say 'common actions' about the PKK and Cyprus. First, on the PKK. Frankly, what Secretary Rice said after her meeting with the Foreign Minister and what the documents say about the PKK, come across to many Turks as the same-old, same-old. Not much action, a lot of promise, a lot of strong paper, but not much is happening around it. What is going to happen in Iraq now that we have a new and stronger government in Baghdad?

Ambassador Fried: Well, I believe that the Iraqi Foreign Minister was recently in Ankara. This issue came up. I'm told that these discussions went well. We have a new Iraqi government. We support tri-lateral consultations, and, of course, Turkish-Iraqi consultations, on issues having to do with the PKK. There have been more actions, and, well, what can I say? It is the nature of our cooperation on the PKK that you do more than you talk. Not to make too crude a comparison, but I'm very proud of our joint action to apprehend Ocalan in the late 1990's. And you notice, of course, we didn't talk much about that. We don't talk much about our cooperation. We take this seriously.

CNN Turk: Is there anything Turkey can do to make it easier to solve the PKK problem in Iraq? I'm asking, for example, about an amnesty to bring some of those elements back to Turkey?

Ambassador Fried: Any kind of discussion, like this, is very controversial for good reason. The PKK isn't known as a terrorist organization for nothing. They killed and are killing Turks, Turkish citizens, so it's not my place to start telling the Turkish government what to do. The one thing that we encourage is Turkish cooperation with the Iraqi government, including, of course, the Kurdish regional authorities, but the Iraqi government, as such. This is important because now Turkey and Iraq are not only neighbors but increasingly friends. We want to support this dialogue.

CNN Turk: And on Cyprus, again quickly, in the document, there is a strong reference to lifting the isolation of Northern Cyprus, the agreement of both sides in that context. Are there any original ideas on Cyprus, for example, a free-trade zone on the green line was talked about, anything that the U.S. can endorse, that the EU can endorse, that can really help Turkey to, you know, open her ports?

Ambassador Fried: It is a tough situation. Turkey has certain obligations with respect to Cyprus because of the European Union accession process. The Turkish government has put forward some ideas on how to resolve this. We're anxious to work with Turkey on a way forward. We want to see Turkey in the European Union. We want to see a united Cyprus; the bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. And it's in this context that we want to see the isolation of Turkish-Cypriots end. That's our policy, that's also the EU policy. So we want to work our way forward.

CNN Turk: On Damascus diplomacy now. That really highlighted the visit, especially for the Turkish media and the Turkish audience, and the AK Party government of Turkey feels very much vindicated now in the initial visit of Khalid Mashaal to Ankara because, they are saying, because of that visit, because of our ties to Mashaal and Hamas, and also to Syria, by the way, we are in a position to send, you know, our men to Damascus to talk to them about it. So, our policy, anyway, is in some way justified now. Do you agree with that?

Ambassador Fried: Well, it's not my place as an American to enter into a domestic Turkish political debate. That's what this really is, and you know it. But we do appreciate the mission to Damascus. We appreciated it when Turkey sent strong signals to the Syrians. Yes, we have our views of the Mashaal visit; yes, we have our views of the Hamas visit, but the questions is not whether we are going to debate that, but whether Turkey can help in the future, and this was discussed yesterday.

CNN Turk: Do you encourage direct talks with Mashaal at this point?

Ambassador Fried: I don't think that that's a great idea at this point. The mission was not a mission to Hamas but it was a mission to the Syrian government. But I think the issues of diplomacy are best left to those channels.

CNN Turk: Okay, last but not least on Iran – Mr. Gul has also been very, very active in diplomatic missions, I gather, with Iran, to help the international community. But there have been some concerns raised, in this town and elsewhere, about, you know, having two channels, having a duplication of channels, and there could be a risk about that. What do you think of that? What's Turkey's role and what is the limit?

Ambassador Fried: Well, the channels dealing with the Iranian government on the issue of its nuclear weapons ambitions, its nuclear program, is the so-called P5+1, the EU-3, plus Russia, China and the United States. Now, at this [inaudible] of the negotiations, if the Iranians weren't, well, stalling, there would have been a meeting yesterday between Solana and Larijani. And I'm sorry that the Iranians appear to be stalling for time. That's very unfortunate, but that doesn't mean that there is no role for Turkey. Turkey is a neighbor of Iran, Turkey can send messages to Tehran, they can it's time to say yes to the fair offer from the international community. It's time for Iran to stop stalling, stop playing for time and address this issue seriously. The international community has made a step and Iran should respond appropriately.

CNN Turk: One truly last question.

Ambassador Fried: Okay.

CNN Turk: And this is on domestic issues a little bit, and I know you don't want to go into that.

Ambassador Fried: You're right.

CNN Turk: I'm going to ask you anyway, because of the political tension in Ankara that sometimes kind of resurfaces, especially the discussion about the national elections coming up. [Inaudible] You know, what do you think about that political issue, as far as its effects on Turkey's economy, and also in terms of its foreign policy goals?

Ambassador Fried: Well, democracies are competitive systems. To say that there should be a democracy without political competition and occasional political tension is just to say that it's no democracy at all. The notion of unanimity is foolish in a domestic political context. I've got nothing to say about Turkish domestic politics.

CNN Turk: But, does that mean that you don't have any concerns that if the tensions increase so much that it could cause instability in the Turkish economy?

Ambassador Fried: We want to see a normal democratic process in Turkey take place in a way that strengthens the country's economy, that strengthens foreign investment, that promotes the country's reforms and that makes Turkey a good partner to the United States. We will work with whatever government the democratic process gives us. Normal political tensions are fine. Frankly, Turkey's economy has done well since 2001, if you think about it.

CNN Turk: Okay, on that note, thank you very much, thank you for your time.

Ambassador Fried: It's a pleasure.

CNN Turk: Thank you for talking to CNN Turk.


eleased on July 10, 2006

ENDS


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