As prepared for delivery
U.S.-Turkish Relations in an Age of Interdependence
Thank you, Rob [Satloff], for that introduction and for all that the Washington
Institute does to advance our understanding of a vitally important part of the
world. I've got several colleagues whom I think of in connection with the
Institute: Martin Indyk and Dennis Ross. They send their greetings. I assume
everyone here wishes them well in the important work they are doing this week
with President Clinton and Secretary Albright.
I am honored to be with you today. The association of this event with the name
of Turgut Ozal made this truly an invitation I could not refuse. I once had the
chance to experience first-hand the clarity and foresight of Turgut Ozal's
thinking. That opportunity came in January of 1991, when I was a journalist for
TIME magazine. I was in Ankara in the midst of the Gulf War. I'd gone there in
part to get the perspective of my friend Mort Abramowitz, who was then the much
admired U.S. Ambassador. Mort's deputy, by the way, was Marc Grossman,
subsequently an ambassador to Turkey himself and now our Assistant Secretary for
Mort arranged for me to call on President Ozal. That interview, conducted nearly
eight years ago, stands up a lot better than most journalism--including, I
hasten to add, my journalism. That's because of the breadth of vision President
Ozal displayed on his end of the conversation. I will cite some of what he had
to say in the course of these remarks. I'll do so because of its relevance to
today's world. In fact, as I think back to my talk with President Ozal, I can
see, with the benefit of hindsight, a direct, linear connection between his
concept of the U.S.-Turkish relationship and the five-point bilateral agenda
that President Clinton and Prime Minister Yilmaz laid out here in Washington
Just last week, my colleague Mark Parris, our current ambassador to Ankara, gave
a speech here in Washington to the Assembly of Turkish American Associations in
which he made a detailed report on the progress we've made together in
implementing that agenda. At that event, the Turkish Government's perspective
was provided by Ambassador [Baki] Ilkin, who, I'm pleased and honored to see,
could be with us here today.
This afternoon, I propose to review the U.S. Government's understanding of
Turgut Ozal's legacy to his own country and to the world, focusing on three
broad areas: economics, politics, and foreign relations.
I'll start with economics. That is the field in which President Ozal's
influence has perhaps been most enduring, and it has had important and positive
implications for Turkey's development in the other two areas, domestic politics
and foreign policy.
Turgut Ozal understood both the promise and the peril of globalization long
before many other leaders of his day. He was, literally, plugged into the
global village. I remember that during our interview, he had a TV turned on in
the background, volume on mute but tuned to CNN. When something happened on the
screen that caught his attention, he would briefly shift his focus until he got
the gist of the report.
For over a decade, Mr. Ozal had been preparing Turkey for the challenges of a
global marketplace. He had done that by shifting Turkish economic thinking from
the public to the private sector and by opening Turkey's economy to
international trade and investment, while at the same time opening foreign
markets to Turkish goods and services.
The result has been a quiet economic revolution that has given Turkey a
competitive advantage in both good times and difficult ones. Turkey's
demonstrated ability to make tough, forward-looking economic decisions has
helped it weather the financial crisis of 1998 markedly better than many other
emerging markets in Asia and elsewhere. Now the challenge is to continue the
process of reform--maintaining fiscal and monetary discipline, while sustaining
the process of privatization.
Let me now turn from Turkey's economic progress to the country's political life.
That was a major topic of discussion during Prime Minister Yilmaz's visit here
last December. We welcomed his statements about strengthening Turkish democracy
and protecting human rights. Since then, there have been several specific
developments that we have applauded. They include the government's introduction
of a package of legal reforms for parliamentary consideration during the current
session. These would broaden freedom of expression in Turkey and make it more
difficult for those who abuse Turkey's human rights laws to escape punishment.
I realize that the issues of democracy and human rights are sources of
occasional friction in Turkey's relations with the United States, and also with
other countries that wish Turkey well. Some have accused the U.S. of
interference in Turkey's internal affairs. That happened last month when we
expressed our concern after a Turkish court upheld the jailing and banning from
politics for life of a popular politician for quoting from a turn-of-the-century
poem that contained expressions of nationalism and images of religious faith.
The theme of human rights in the United States' ongoing dialogue with Turkey
reflects values that have always infused American foreign policy. But it is a
mistake to describe these as uniquely American, or even as "Western," values.
The aspiration for individual freedom is universal; it is common to all
humanity; the codification and observance of individual rights and communal
tolerance as an underpinning of the rule of law are part of the process not of
westernization but of modernization.
Here, once again, I would turn for support to the Ozal legacy. Trained engineer
that he was, Turgut Ozal worked to build bridges across many of the social and
cultural divides that still delineate the fault lines of Turkey's political
culture. For instance, he supported the Turkish military throughout his years
in office, working to insure that the country's armed forces were well equipped
and well prepared to defend Turkey's territory and interests. At the same time,
however, he worked to ensure that, as in other democracies, the nation's
soldiers took orders from its civilian leadership, and not the other way around.
And then there was his career-long effort to reconcile the sacred and the
secular in Turkish life. He saw no contradiction between reform and
modernization on the one hand and, on the other, his own deep personal belief in
the predominant faith of Turkey's citizenry.
When Americans comment on so crucial and often controversial an issue as the
tension that can arise in Turkey and elsewhere between religious faith and
religious freedom, they do so--or at least they should do so--from a position of
respect for Turkish history. Turkey is, in one sense, much older than the
United States, while, in another, it is somewhat younger. As an ancient culture
and the metropole of a great empire, Turkey was a unitary state for many
centuries before the U.S. was even a frontier colony of another great empire.
But as a republic, Turkey was born in this century.
Ottoman rule expanded largely by force--by the conquest of vast territories
inhabited by both Muslims and non-Muslims. Yet in many of their domains, and
for long periods of time, the Ottomans also developed a notably tolerant system
of governance, including on the issue of religion. Kemal Ataturk built on that
tradition. The republic he helped found has institutionalized the principle
that the best way to protect the freedom of people to believe and worship as
they choose is to separate religion from government--or, as we put it in the
United States, to separate church and state. We share Turkey's belief that this
division is nothing less than an insurance policy against the danger that the
practice of religion will be exploited for political ends. This has happened
often and disastrously throughout history, to the detriment of all the world's
great religions and to the woe of so many of their adherents.
Precisely because we Americans have valued this shared tradition so highly, I
know that some of our Turkish friends and partners were confused and even
angered when, in January of this year, the United States expressed its concern
about the Turkish Constitutional Court's closure of a religiously-oriented
political party on the grounds that it was committed to blurring the lines
between the sacred and secular in Turkish life.
This particular issue is not only complex and sensitive. It is also still
highly topical, so let me take another moment here briefly to restate, and
explain, our concern. We believe that limiting avenues for legitimate political
activity--whether by putting people on trial or in jail for what they write or
say, or by banning political parties, or by shutting down NGOs--carries with it
the risk of an unintended consequence: it may turn moderates into extremists,
who will then provoke further curtailment of freedom, and undermine the health
of democracy itself.
By contrast, experience has taught us that if all elements of society have
access to meaningful and peaceful political expression, then society as a whole
is more likely to address emotional and sometimes divisive issues like religion
within the existing system rather than in opposition to it. A truly open
society is more likely to nurture a healthy body politic. What is sometimes
called "the free market of ideas"--the unfettered though peaceful contention of
different perspectives and prescriptions--animates national renewal, dynamism,
growth and, indeed, modernization itself.
There's another bridge that Turgut Ozal, the engineer, built--a bridge to the
large number of Turks who are of Kurdish origin, whose presence in Turkey has
been chronically, deeply and often violently troubled. He pursued important if
limited reforms, like legalizing the use of the Kurdish language in 1991. His
message of reconciliation toward Turkey's Kurds was given force and legitimacy
by his acceptance--indeed, his embrace--of the Kurdish strains in his own
ancestry. He valued the cultural diversity that is modern Turkey's inheritance
from its rich and ancient past--not just Turkish and Kurdish but also
Circassian, Albanian, Armenian, Greek, Arab and Jewish. He believed that for
someone affirmatively to define himself as a Turkish citizen did not mean having
to repudiate or submerge any aspect of his background. In short, the locus of
patriotism ought to be in the mind and the heart, not in the blood--although,
alas, this proposition itself has been, through the ages, the cause for the
shedding of oceans of blood.
This is one of the great struggles of our species. It has had its noble aspect
as well as its tragic one. Americans have been part of that struggle, shedding
their own blood both righteously and otherwise, both at home and abroad. The
ideal of multiethnic, multi-faith democracy is rooted in our national identity
as well as in our international interests. It's a clichi that happens also to
be a defining truth that we Americans are, to a very great extent, a nation of
immigrants, however imperfect and incomplete the melting process has been. Our
own historical experience--much of it a source of pride, some of it not--has
borne out a simple principle: the more inclusive a society, the more that
ethnic minorities and others outside the traditional mainstream are given a
voice in governance, the less likely it is that those among them who advocate
violence and separation will find followers in the population as a whole.
It is in this light, and against this backdrop, that our Turkish friends should
understand the U.S. view on what is sometimes called Turkey's Kurdish question.
The United States supports Turkey's right to defend itself against terrorists--a
right that we have exercised on our own behalf in recent months. But we also
believe, as do many Turks, that there can be no solely military solution to the
problems that continue to plague Turkey's southeast; and that any enduring
answer to Turkey's Kurdish question will depend on the willingness of the
Turkish government to safeguard the human rights of all the people of Turkey.
Only then will the Turkish republic be able to realize the first element of
Kemal Ataturk's vision for the state he helped to create: "Peace at Home."
The second, equally important element of that vision was "Peace Abroad," so let
me now turn to Turkish foreign policy. In that arena, too, Turgut Ozal's legacy
can serve as a touchstone for thinking about current events.
Let me recall, yet again, my interview with President Ozal in January 1991. We
met the day before American cruise missiles were unleashed against military
targets in Baghdad. Yet, even as he was directing Turkey's decisive engagement
on behalf of the United States and its coalition partners in that conflict,
President Ozal wanted to talk at length and in depth about another challenge:
the impending break-up of the Soviet Union--which would occur eleven months
later, on Christmas Day of that same year. He got out a large atlas from his
bookshelf--and pulled out a string of black worry beads from his pocket. (In
prepping me for the interview, Mort Abramowitz had told me that the emergence of
the worry beads was a sure sign that the conversation was about to get even more
President Ozal was just launching into a disquisition on the prospects for the
region when an aide whispered to him that his Prime Minister of the time,
Yildirim Akbulut, and senior military advisers had arrived to discuss an
American request for the use of Turkish bases during the war. "Let them wait,"
said the President. "The war is important, but so is the nature of the peace
that comes after it."
President Ozal saw our collective response to the emergence, or in some cases
re-emergence, of fifteen independent nations from the ruins of the old U.S.S.R.
as the most pressing and daunting challenge facing the international community
at the end of the twentieth century. He believed that Turkey could play a
valuable role in the reconstruction and realignment that would occur, and that
it could particularly do so by reaching out to those newly free states with
which Turkey shares ties of language, culture, and history.
"As the Russian system of empire collapses and new structures take its place,"
he said, "we can help counter the influences of religious extremism coming from
here"--he pointed to Iran on the map--and "from here"--he indicated the Arabian
Peninsula. Turkey, he said, could play a stabilizing role in what was about to
become the former USSR, especially in what he saw as an emergent Turkic world.
In the years since, Turkey has done exactly that. It has been a leader in
pursuing trade and economic cooperation with the largest of the New Independent
States--the Russian Federation. It has initiated a number of programs of
education and training in the Caucasus and Central Asia, aimed at encouraging
and assisting those countries in the development of the kind of secular
democratic system that has served Turkey so well for most of this century.
Turkey's activism in this region will also help bring into being an East-West
Energy Transportation Corridor that will literally power Turkey's future
economic growth and generate improvements in the living standards of the Turkish
We are doing our part to advance this goal. This Administration remains
committed to the Caspian Basin Initiative and to the strategic imperative of
developing multiple transportation routes for bringing oil and gas to world
markets. Let me emphasize in the strongest terms that our plans and our policy
continue to feature the prospect for a pipeline running through Baku to Ceyhan.
We will continue to make the case for that pipeline as commercial negotiations
among companies and transit states move forward in the weeks and months ahead.
The arguments, we believe, are compelling. But so is another point. I'd even
say it is self-evident: The economic development of Central Asia and the
Caucasus depends on peace in that region. To its credit and to its benefit,
Turkey is supporting the diplomacy of conflict-resolution in its neighborhood,
especially the OSCE's effort to help end the conflict between Azerbaijanis and
Armenians over Nagorno-Karabakh. In opening an air corridor between Istanbul
and Yerevan three years ago, Turkey took an important step in making possible a
new channel for improving relations with a brave and deserving neighbor.
But all parties need to do more much more, and they need to do it soon. Time is
not the friend of peace in the Caucasus and peace means more than cease-fires
and standoffs between armed camps.
I have made clear the strong ties of friendship that bind the U.S. to Turkey.
But I should be just as clear about Armenia. This is a nation that has suffered
terribly in history, especially in this century, and it is also a nation with
which the United States feels strong bonds of its own. It is now time for
Turkey and Armenia to consider what further steps might be taken to build a
stronger, more stable bilateral relationship. Toward that end, President
Demirel has invited President Kocharian to Istanbul next year, should the OSCE
decide on that city as the venue for its summit, as we hope it will. For its
part, Armenia has proposed working with Turkey and other nations to develop
promising new transportation links in the region.
Let me turn our attention now more to the south, and especially to the region so
much in the news this week: the Middle East. In President Ozal's foreign
policy, as in his domestic policy, he worked to reconcile a number of objectives
that may otherwise be at odds. For example, he enhanced Turkish relations with
key Arab states of the Middle East, while at the same time he laid the
groundwork for improved relations with Israel. That was as sensible as it was
fore-sighted, since Israel like Turkey, is a bulwark of democracy in the region.
Prime Minister Yilmaz's recent visit to Jerusalem will help buttress that
We hope to see more of that same path-breaking statesmanship in Turkish policy
toward the Aegean, where President Ozal built still more bridges in Turkey's
relationship with Greece.
Among the many challenges in the Aegean today, the most pressing is to find a
solution to the decades-old conflict on Cyprus. Let me be clear: The United
States' goal in Cyprus remains a bicommunal, bizonal federation. We have
underscored that commitment with the caliber of our international diplomatic
team assigned to work the problem--Marc Grossman, Dick Holbrooke and Tom Miller.
Finding a lasting solution to the Cyprus problem requires lowering tensions and
reducing the likelihood that disputes will erupt into war. In this regard, the
United States has made very clear its grave concerns about the introduction of
Russian S-300 missiles into Cyprus. At the same time, we have also made clear
that if such destabilizing missiles are installed, we will oppose any effort to
remove them by force.
Elsewhere in Turkey's immediate neighborhood, in the Balkans--where Dick
Holbrooke is also fairly active--a Turkish brigade and police contingent have
distinguished themselves in the struggle to build a lasting peace in Bosnia as
part of the NATO-led Stabilization Force. Turkey has also joined the United
States in the ongoing international effort to address the crisis in Kosovo. In
Dick Holbrooke's recent talks with President Milo evif, Dick repeatedly
expressed our concern for the rights and status of the significant Turkish
community that has lived in Kosovo for centuries. On another key Balkan issue,
the strong security relationship Turkey has built with the Former Yugoslav
Republic of Macedonia has helped ensure that the conflict in Kosovo doesn't
spill across the border.
Let me complete this tour of the horizon of Turkey's foreign policy with some
observations about another issue on which American officials, myself included,
have spoken out many times over the past several years, but which is important
and timely enough to bear further mention today; and that is Turkey's prospects
for eventual membership in the European Union.
We in Washington continue to hope that Turkish politicians and commentators will
not make this issue the be-all-and-end-all of Turkey's success and self-esteem.
Turkey's ties to Europe are irreversible and unbreakable; they are a fact of
life, not a privilege that comes with membership in this or that
institution. For that matter, we Americans are proof that you don't have to be
a member of the EU to interact beneficially and influentially with Europe--and
we're separated from that Continent by an entire ocean, while the bulk of Turkey
is separated by only the Bosporus.
Nonetheless, as a very interested non-member and non-applicant, the U.S. has
urged the EU to find ways to bring Turkey more fully into the process of
enlargement. We have done so--and we will persist in doing so--for reasons that
have as much to do with our hopes for Europe as with our hopes for Turkey.
We do not believe that European unity and integration will be fully successful
if a key European country is set uniquely alone and apart. Turkey has been a
presence and an influence in Europe for more than 400 years. For a host of
reasons--from its strategic position in Europe's southern tier to the vitality
of its economy to the youthful demographics of its growing population--Turkey
will continue to be a presence and an influence in Europe into the future.
Early in this century, Turkey made a strategic decision about what kind of
country it wanted to be. Under the leadership of Ataturk, Turkey began to move
toward democracy; it separated religion and the state; it oriented itself
westward; it empowered and enfranchised women; it took steps, albeit still
unfulfilled, to make heal long-standing animosities, including with Greece.
In the 75 years since, Turkey has made extraordinary progress on many counts.
That said, it's also true that many of the obstacles blocking Turkey's path to
EU membership today are of Turkey's own making, including several that I've
touched on this afternoon. But precisely in order to increase the chances that
Turkey will make further progress in these areas, it is important for the EU to
say clearly and unequivocally that it is holding a place for Turkey when it is
ready. That's because, quite simply, Turkey is more likely to make the right
choices about its future if we, who lead what has traditionally but
simplistically been called the West, make clear that we believe Turkey's future
lies with us-- not because of where we are on the map, but because of where we
hope to be together in the 21st century.
At stake here is more than the eligibility of one country for Europe's
preeminent economic and political union. There are also implications for the
nature and destiny of Europe itself--issues that are not just of interest, but
of vital national interest--to the United States.
Throughout its history, Europe has been at its best when it has identified
itself not in terms of artificial barriers--a body of water here, a range of
mountains there, a wall of concrete and barbed wire somewhere else--but in terms
of those universal values I spoke of earlier. One of those values is strength--
and unity--in diversity, including religious and ethnic diversity. That's true
for an individual country, like the United States or Turkey, and it's true for
the Euro-Atlantic Community as a whole, of which both the U.S. and Turkey are a
The debate within the EU over Turkey resonates with references to "culture" and
"civilization." These words are often euphemisms for religion. There is a
theory currently in vogue that the Cold War rivalry between communism and
capitalism has been replaced by a global "clash of civilizations." If the
article and book by that title had appeared while Turgut Ozal was still alive, I
feel certain he would have taken issue. Or, to put it differently, he would
have been among those who applauded President Clinton's assertion last month at
the UN that the leaders and the peoples of all nations have an obligation to
disprove the clash-of-civilizations thesis in the way we manage the evolution of
world politics in the coming decades.
When I saw President Ozal nearly eight years ago, he swept his hand across the
map from Afghanistan to Algeria and commented on the phenomenon of extremism in
the Islamic world. "In all these countries," he said, "too many people have too
little hope"; hence their susceptibility to purveyors of hate and violence.
Turkey, he said, could, and would, continue to prove that religion in general
and Islam in particular do not constitute an impediment to modernization and
So it can; so it must. That is why it is of truly global importance that Turkey
should be our partner, our Ally in multiple senses of that word, in fulfilling
our common task in an age of growing global interdependence. That task is to
ensure that civilizations do not clash--that instead they respect, interact with
and enrich each other.
In its seventy-five years of existence, the Republic of Turkey has often
vindicated that proposition in its domestic affairs and its foreign policy. It
has done so under the guidance of extraordinary leaders like Kemal Ataturk and
Turgut Ozal. Turkey's contributions to human civilization have flowed from the
character of the Turkish people--from their impulse for democracy, their
instinct for entrepreneurship and innovation, their aspiration for stability and
for peace. So, to Ambassador Ilkin and all the citizens of Turkey who are here
with us today, let me close by congratulating you on your many achievements to
date, and let me also pledge that, as you continue the work-in-progress begun by
your Founding Fathers three quarters of the century ago, the United States will
remain proud to be at your side.
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