United States Information Service, 06 July 1998

TEXT: U.S. OFFICIAL SPEAKS ON TURKEY AND THE KURDISH QUESTION

(U.S. supports Turkey's goal of eventual EU membership) (2130)

Vienna -- Dana Bauer, deputy director of the State Department Office
of Southern Europe, recalled July 2 the many areas of cooperation and
common interest between the United States and Turkey in a speech at a
conference, titled "On the Way to Europe: The Future of the Kurdish
Question for Turkey and Its Neighbors," held at the Dr. Karl Renner
Institute.

Bauer said, "We will continue to urge both the European Union and
Turkey to maintain a dialogue and intensify their relationship. We
hope this will lead to Turkey's eventual EU membership."

She pointed out, however, that "there are some obstacles and Turkey
has work to do. Foremost, we look forward to progress across a broad
front of human rights issues ... As noted in the State Department's
last human rights report, there have long been concerns about the
Turkish treatment of its Kurdish ethnic minority, which constitutes a
sizable segment of the Turkish population."

Bauer recommended, "As the Turkish military continues its
on-the-ground success against the PKK guerillas, Turkey should take
advantage of the opportunity to incorporate its Turkish Kurds into its
vibrant cultural mosaic. If the Kurdish Question is addressed in
economic, social, and political spheres, Turkey can seize the
opportunity to anchor itself as a model of integrated peace,
prosperity, and strength in the world order of the 21st Century." She
then suggested ways of accomplishing this goal.

Following is the text of Bauer's prepared remarks:

(Note: In the following text, "billion" equals 1,000 million.)

(Begin text)

Remarks by Deputy Director of the Office of Southern Europe
Dana Bauer
at the Dr. Karl Renner Institute
Vienna, Austria
July 2, 1998

Remarks to be delivered at conference "On the Way to Europe: The
Future of the Kurdish Question for Turkey and Its Neighbors"

U.S. Strategic Interests in Turkey and the Kurdish Question

My office in the State Department's European Bureau manages U.S.
policy toward Turkey, as well as Greece and Cyprus. But, just as
Turkey sits at the intersection of Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia,
and the Middle East, one cannot discuss Turkey's strategic importance
to the United States with looking across Turkey's borders and
important developments elsewhere in the region. This holds true
especially as we discuss policy approaches toward the Kurds, who
constitute a large ethnic minority in Turkey, as well as in Iraq, Iran
and Syria.

We all know that Turkey lies at the heart of an area where U.S.
political and strategic interests intersect, so let me begin with an
overall look at U.S. views of Turkey. Secretary Albright has said that
"because of its position at the crossroads of Europe, the Caucasus,
Central Asia and the Middle East, Turkeys's future policies will help
shape the contours of the new world, as we leave the Cold War behind
and enter the 21st Century."

Turkey is indeed important to the United States. Turkey has a
tradition of cooperation in defending the values of Western democracy.
It anchored NATO's southern flank throughout the Cold War and helped
in peacekeeping efforts from Korea to Desert Storm to Somalia to
Bosnia. Turkey has a democratic, secular government and a vigorous
market economy consistent with the European tradition of which it is a
part. And, Turkey is important economically. That is why the U.S.
government designated Turkey as one of the world's ten "big emerging
markets."

During Prime Minister Yilmaz's visit to Washington in December, we
agreed on an action plan to increase U.S.-Turkish consultations in
five critical areas: energy, trade, investment and economic reform,
Cyprus/Aegean issues, security cooperation, and regional cooperation.

I will say a few words about our efforts in these areas. On the energy
front, Turkey and the U.S. signed an energy framework agreement
earlier this year to enhance diplomatic and commercial collaboration
between us to create the right conditions for building a Baku-Ceyhan
pipeline, as one of the multiple pipelines to bring Caspian energy to
the West. We have followed up with frequent high-level talks,
including a joint delegation of the Department of State, Commerce, and
Energy to Turkey during the first half of this year.

We have accomplished a lot on the economic and commercial fronts. For
example, in January, Secretary of Commerce Daley personally opened a
Business Development Center in Istanbul and created a program to
increase commercial links dramatically between the U.S. and Turkey.
Boeing Corporation and Turkish Airlines have signed an agreement
totaling $2.5 billion, witnessed on December 19 by Vice President Gore
and Prime Minister Yilmaz. A bilateral treaty to prevent double
taxation of U.S. and Turkish nationals doing business in our two
countries was ratified by the Senate and the Turkish Parliament.

We are also focused on improving relations between Greece and Turkey.
The situation in the Aegean and on Cyprus is too dangerous to allow it
to go untended. We are going to continue our efforts to defuse
tensions between our two allies in the Aegean region.

The administration is concentrating heavily on achieving a settlement
in Cyprus, working with the parties directly involved and coordinating
closely with our European allies and with the UN.

Long-standing cooperation on security issues is a strong foundation of
our relationship with Turkey. We and the Turks are equally concerned
about their neighbors who support terrorism or seek to acquire weapons
of mass destruction.

We appreciate Turkey's role, at great sacrifice to itself, in the Gulf
War and in imposing and maintaining sanctions on Iraq. We applaud
Turkey's continued cooperation in enforcing the Operation Northern
Watch no-fly zone over northern Iraq, deterring Saddam from aggression
against Iraqi Kurds. We welcome Turkey's participation in the Ankara
Process designed to promote dialogue between rival Iraqi Kurdish
factions.

Turkey's cooperation elsewhere in the region has greatly helped
promote regional stability. Turkey has taken a strong role in UN and
NATO peacekeeping from Korea to Somalia and the Balkans; we are
consulting closely these days on the Kosovo problem as well.

Both of us have an interest in peace and stability in the Caucasus,
where Turkey has generally played an active, positive role in working
with the states of the region to seek a resolution to the conflicts.
We want it to continue to do so. We work closely with the Turkish
government to end ethnic conflict and develop stable conditions in the
Caucasus that will also be conducive to developing, transporting, and
marketing Caspian energy resources.

We will continue to support Turkey's aspiration for eventual
membership in the European Union. We are not members of the EU, and we
do not have a vote. But we do have a view. As Deputy Secretary Talbott
said in Oslo in January, "the open door is perhaps the single most
important feature of European and trans-Atlantic architecture. Hence
the U.S.'s strong belief in the broadening as well as the deepening of
the EU. And hence, more specifically our advocacy of Turkey's desire
for eventual membership in the EU." We will continue to urge both the
European Union and Turkey to maintain a dialogue and intensify their
relationship. We hope this will lead to Turkey's eventual EU
membership.

But there are some obstacles and Turkey has work to do. Foremost, we
look forward to progress across a broad front of human rights issues,
including expanding freedom of expression and association, ending the
state of emergency in Turkey's southeast, implementing the 1995
constitutional amendments to provide for broader democratic
participation, and punishing the use of torture. On his visit to
Washington, Prime Minister Yilmaz said that human rights was a top
priority of his administration, and expressed his determination to
improve Turkey's record on this issue.

This leads me to the Kurdish question, especially U.S. policy
approaches to this important issue. As noted in the State Department's
last human rights report, there have long been concerns about the
Turkish treatment of its Kurdish ethnic minority, which constitutes a
sizable segment of the Turkish population. The Kurdish Question is not
a new one. It has existed since the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire
and the foundation of the modern Turkish Republic. The problems have
existed in many ways since then, although the last 15 years have seen
most concerted use of violence. Turkey faces a definitive terrorist
threat, although the scope of the Kurdish issue cannot be singularly
equated with the PKK.

As the Turkish military continues its on-the-ground success against
the PKK guerillas, Turkey should take advantage of the opportunity to
incorporate its Turkish Kurds into its vibrant cultural mosaic. If the
Kurdish Question is addressed in economic, social, and political
spheres, Turkey can seize the opportunity to anchor itself as a model
of integrated peace, prosperity, and strength in the world order of
the 21st Century.

Economically, Turkey has embarked on the ambitious GAP
hydrodevelopment project to help rejuvenate the Southeast and perhaps
turn the tide of migration back to the countryside. If the Southeast
becomes a breadbasket and a magnet for foreign investment, this
diverse and integrated economy will help both local populations and
Turkey as a whole to assert itself in the global marketplace.

Socially, Turkey can grasp the opportunity to transform a troubled
Southeast into a regional powerhouse by helping to guide all of its
citizens toward a new framework. Resettling the displaced is a
critical element to this.

Politically, both the United States and Turkey base our cherished
constitutions upon the foundations of democracy. By agreeing to
participate within the democratic system, political parties explicitly
legitimize a democracy's credentials, thereby making it richer and the
country stronger.

Accordingly, we are concerned with Turkey's constraints on cultural
and linguistic rights, as well as pro-Kurdish political parties banned
for speech acts. U.S. policy towards Turkey encourages bold and
imaginative measures to create the basis for broader democratic
participation and freedom of expression in the Southeast.

A combined economic, social, and political approach to the Kurdish
Question will help to integrate Kurdish populations into the sovereign
territory of a vibrant and diverse Turkish state. Simultaneously, the
dangers posed by the terrorist organization PKK (Kurdistan Worker's
Party) are very serious. The PKK have a largely Kurdish membership,
and operate in Turkey and a number of Middle East, European, and
former Soviet Union countries.

The U.S. designated the PKK as a foreign terrorist organization last
year because of the group's long and undisputed involvement in
terrorist attacks since its founding in 1974. The PKK has mounted
several terrorist campaigns during the past several years that
included hundreds of bombing attacks on Turkish diplomatic, commercial
and tourist facilities in Germany and many other countries.

We support Turkey's territorial integrity and its right to defend
itself against terrorism, including the PKK. At the same time, we
continue to emphasize that Turkish operations into northern Iraq in
pursuit of PKK guerrillas need to be limited in scope and duration,
and that the operations scrupulously respect the human rights of the
civilian population of northern Iraq.

Permissive attitudes toward the PKK by regimes in Syria and Iran
further bolster the group's base of operations. Today, the PKK
exploits the lax security environments and growing organized crime
networks in eastern Europe and parts of the former Soviet Union.
Meanwhile, the PKK falsely professes to represent all of Turkey's
Kurds and solicits funds and fighters from Kurdish communities in
Europe and elsewhere. In addition, the group is involved in a variety
of illegal activities including narcotics trafficking, alien
smuggling, and organized crime networks through Europe, the Middle
East, and parts of the former Soviet Union.

While the lines often blur between PKK terrorists and pro-Kurdish
sympathizers, we believe it is important for all parties, including
the Turkish government and its critics, to make a clear distinction
between the terrorist PKK and the large ethnic Kurdish population of
Turkey.

As we continue our frank and broad-ranging discussion with Turkey on
human rights issues and promote broader democratic participation, we
look forward to further progress in these areas. We believe Turkey
should make this progress not to please us or to please Europe. Turks
will choose what kind of society they want. Turkey should do this
because it is right for Turkey.

On the way to Europe, Turkey's further integration into Western
European economies will advance economic and democratic reforms not
only at home, but will contribute to the general health and stability
of the region as a whole. In this way, Turkey will serve as a model
for the region and help prepare it for a smooth transition into the
21st century.

(End text)

 


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