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Sec Rice With Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan


Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Ankara, Turkey
November 2, 2007

Press Availability With Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan

FOREIGN MINISTER BABACAN: (Via interpreter.) -- members of the press today. We are welcoming from the United States of America Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Secretary Rice this morning arrived in Ankara and later met with the Prime Minister, and we've had meetings here as well at our Foreign Ministry. And later, we will visit the President.

In our meeting this morning and in our meetings with Secretary Rice especially we discussed issues involving a few countries: the situation in Iraq; the situation in northern Iraq; issues regarding the PKK terror organization; issues such as Iran and the Middle East peace process; and regional issues and problems involving -- concerning our two countries. Separate from this, regarding the events of 1915, we discussed the events of 1915 as they were being addressed by the U.S. Congress.

In our meetings, we have discovered once again that -- we have confirmed once again that many of the things that we face, many of the issues for both of our countries are the same. The United States for us is a friend and an ally, and at the same time our strategic partner. Within this framework, these issues should be addressed. We are in agreement that these issues should be addressed together.

And I turn the microphone over to Secretary Rice.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much, Minister Ali. Thank you very much for having me here. I want to begin just by noting, since we are here in the Foreign Ministry, that a few days ago, Mr. Inonu, who was the Vice Premier and Foreign Minister of Turkey, passed away after a long illness. He passed away in Houston. He was a good friend of the United States and a true patriot for Turkey. And I want to offer my condolences to the Turkish people and to his family.

As my colleague has said, we've had wide-ranging discussions with the Prime Minister and then in our own channels, and we will continue those discussions. I want to take a moment to thank you very much for hosting the meeting that we are about attend in Istanbul, the neighbors conference. Turkey has been a good friend of the United States and a good friend of Iraq. And we appreciate very much that you are going to host that conference.

We've had wide-ranging discussions about Iran, about Lebanon. We talked about the Middle East peace process. I know that Ali has just been from a 12-country tour of the region, and so he had a lot of updated information to give me.

And of course, we've had a significant discussion of the problems in northern Iraq and the problem of PKK terrorism. And I affirmed to the Prime Minister as well as to the Foreign Minister that the United States considers the PKK a terrorist organization and indeed we have a common enemy that we must find ways to take effective action so that Turkey will not suffer from terrorist attacks. That is destabilizing for Iraq; it is a problem therefore of security for the United States and Turkey, and we will work together to achieve our goals.

Thank you very much for having me here.

FOREIGN MINISTER BABACAN: (Via interpreter.) Esteemed friends, we are going to take two questions. I can take two questions and the Secretary can take two questions.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter.) Secretary Rice, Turkey for a long time has been working with the United States on the issue of PKK terrorism as they're waiting for something to be done. When you met with Prime Minister Erdogan, it was said that you were going to come to Ankara with some suggestions within a few days. In your visit today, what kind -- what do you envision for the United States and Turkey to do together, and when do you expect results?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I first confirmed and affirmed with the Prime Minister that we consider this a common threat, not just a threat to Turkey, but a threat to the interest of the United States as well. We are indeed talking about how to enhance some of the activities that we have already begun in terms of information sharing, intelligence sharing. But we want to look to a plan for effective action against the PKK. It will require not just the United States and Turkey, but also the Iraqi Government, and that is a discussion that I plan to have when I see Prime Minister Maliki later on today.

The President will meet with Prime Minister Erdogan on November 5th and they will be able to further our discussions. I did want to hear from my Turkish colleagues about their ideas and about how we might move this forward. But I want to just underscore again, this is going to take persistence, it's going to take commitment. This is a very difficult problem. Rooting out terrorism is hard. We are learning that all around the world. But with commitment and with persistence, I'm certain we'll be able to make progress. And we want to do so in a way that improves the prospects for a stable and democratic Iraq on the border with Turkey because ultimately, as my Turkish colleagues have said many times, a unified and stable Iraq is very much in Turkey's interest as well as in the interest of the region.

QUESTION: A question for each of you. For the Foreign Minister, what would you like to see the United States do that it's not doing now to confront the PKK rebels? And did you ask Secretary Rice for anything specific in your meeting today?

And Madame Secretary, your former envoy for the border region and the PKK, General Ralston, is quoted today as saying U.S. inaction on the PKK matter may drive Turkey to act. Has the U.S. been too slow to react here and are you playing catch-up now?

FOREIGN MINISTER BABACAN: (Via interpreter.) To respond to the first question, as you know, in the struggle against terrorism, many instruments are at hand. With the struggles -- we have been subjected to attacks by the PKK terror organization for years and we've lost many of our citizens because of these attacks. What we expect from all of our friends, from the entire international community on the subject of the struggle against terrorism, is cooperation and solidarity. There can be very many different formats in terms of cooperation and solidarity.

With a strategic approach, we in a timely manner want to be able to use all these instruments that are available to us. My good friend Condi's visit today will facilitate a closer cooperation with the United States of America, initiate a closer cooperation with the United States of America in terms of the struggle against terrorism. There's no doubt that the continuation of these talks will continue Monday in Washington. And our hope, our desire, is that as a country that has been the target of big terrorist attacks, the United States will understand the situation that we're in and will understand the frustration that we are in and the outrage and the anger that we feel, and be aware of this so that in this visit we have seen this openly. And what's important is that in the subsequent periods that at the highest levels the interests and the efforts will be made at the highest levels to continue the struggle with solidarity against this terror organization.

SECRETARY RICE: We have taken several steps over the last -- particularly the last several months of the last year to enhance our ability to cooperate together in the sharing of intelligence and the sharing of information, in the way that we assess the situation. But I think it's fair to say that we believe, the President believes -- and he will say to Prime Minister Erdogan -- that we all need to redouble our efforts. And the United States is committing to -- committed to redoubling those efforts because we need a comprehensive approach to this problem.

I want to repeat that all across the world, we're seeing that it is not easy to root out terrorists who hide in remote areas and hide in villages. It's a hard problem and so we need a comprehensive approach. The Prime Minister has talked about a comprehensive plan and we started to talk about some of the elements of that today. And when he is in Washington, I think that they will talk more about those elements.

But no one should doubt the commitment of the United States to this issue because, as I've underscored, this is not just a problem for Turkey. This is a problem for Iraq, this is a problem for the United States. And so we have a common enemy and we need a common approach to dealing with the problem that we find ourselves -- with the problem with which we find ourselves.

FOREIGN MINISTER BABACAN: (Via interpreter.) After one final question, we should complete the press conference.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter.) Secretary Rice, in the statement that you made previous to coming here regarding a possible military operation by Turkey, you have indicated that you were trying to discourage a cross-border operation that would destabilize Iraq. But you may as well recognize that stability in Iraq has been not in place. And you've referred to northern Iraq as Kurdistan a few times. Is this something that you're doing with specific purpose or was this unintentional? Because we know that you, obviously, respect the territorial integrity of Iraq as well.

And I also want to bring up the issue of the 1915 events as they're being taken up in the American House of Representatives. This is perceived in Turkey as a card that's being used against Turkey. Is there anything that you can say about this as well?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, on the House resolution and the events of 1915, I think it's clear, and we've received from our Turkish colleagues an expression of gratitude for how hard the United States Government worked to see that this resolution would not pass, not because we are unconcerned about the historical events (inaudible) there, where they were tragic and brutal events, but because we do not believe that this resolution would have served any good purpose.

And we're going to continue to work against the resolution. We are encouraging Turkey and Armenia to come together both to address their history, but also to address their future, because these two countries are going to prosper better in a circumstance in which there are relations between Turkey and Armenia. And so that would be our hope.

As to northern Iraq, nobody is a stronger supporter of a unified Iraq than the United States and than I am, on behalf of the United States. There is a Kurdish Regional Government. We expect that Kurdish Regional Government to exercise its responsibilities as well for what happens in territory in which it is governing. But the north of Iraq and all of Iraq are part of a single, unified Iraq. The United States does not stand for the partition of Iraq. I said this yesterday to a group of Iraqis. And I would just note that I haven't heard Iraqis talking about a partition of their own country, and so obviously the territorial integrity is important.

As to the stability of northern Iraq and of this region, it is absolutely the case that there cannot be terrorism emanating from that territory or it will contribute to instability in northern Iraq. But any actions that we take need to be both effective and need to reinforce our overall goal of a stable and unified Iraq that can be a good neighbor for Turkey and for the other neighbors who will be gathering at this conference in Istanbul.

QUESTION: Thank you. Nicholas Kralev of Washington Times. I'd like to ask both of you what role can Iran play in resolving the PKK issue? They have been supportive of Turkey. Is this an opportunity to engage Iran perhaps in a constructive way?

And Madame Secretary, a point you made on the plane flying over here that the PKK problem is not -- does not date back to yesterday or the war, but does, in fact, go back decades. As you know, there is a widely held view in Turkey that the war in Iraq has created conditions that have helped the PKK. Were you in your comments yesterday trying to avoid perhaps responsibility for the conditions you might have created that have helped the PKK?

FOREIGN MINISTER BABACAN: (Via interpreter.) Valued friends, Iran is our neighbor and in Iran there is PJAK, PJAK, similar to the PKK terror organization, and Iran is also subject to attacks by them. And everybody knows the relation between PJAK and the PKK. During our visit to Tehran and during the Iranian Foreign Minister's visit to Turkey, we evaluated the situation with Iran as well, and they share their thoughts with us in terms of what kind of support they would be able to give us.

But I want to say this openly. Right now, in the general area of Iraq, there is American control and in the north Iraq, despite having good intentions, their capabilities are very limited in terms of the struggle against the PKK. On the other side, in the north, in the authority in the north we have doubts regarding the regional government in the north because of their statements that seem to sympathize with the PKK.

So in our struggle against the PKK, we need a structure that will combine both political will and action. So our expectations from the United States are very high, and if the U.S. Administration -- the U.S. Administration will play a key role if we are to struggle against the PKK. And in periods ahead of us, we want action, methods that have -- methods that have action, and we need to work on actually making things happens. This is where the words end and action needs to start.

Thank you again for your --

SECRETARY RICE: Yes, very briefly. First of all, I think it is historically accurate that this is not a problem of the last few years. There have been times when PKK activism has been very strong. I fully acknowledge that the circumstances are different today because there is a U.S. role, and I have said a U.S. obligation, to help to do something about the problem of the PKK in northern Iraq. In fact, it's something that we stated at the time of the liberation of Iraq, that the United States would not tolerate the use of Iraqi territory for terrorist activity. So I think that should be very clear.

Again, the United States and Turkey and Iraq, even if it has limited capabilities, and the regional government has a common interest in not having the events in northern Iraq lead into a destabilization of Iraq as a whole. And so I am quite certain that we can find ways to cooperate for effective action.

We also want to see action. We want it to be effective, we want it to be well-considered and we want it to be action that is going to really help us to get a handle on what has been a festering problem and, frankly, lately, with PKK attacks a more acute problem.

2007/T18-2
Released on November 2, 2007

ENDS

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