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A Conversation with Abdullah Gül [Rush Transcript; Federal News Service]

Speaker: Abdullah Gül, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Turkey
Presider: Frank G. Zarb, Managing Director, Hellman & Friedman, LLC
February 13, 2007

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FRANK G. ZARB: Thank you very much. It's with great pleasure and a very specific honor that I'm here to introduce today's speaker. Abdullah Gül is the deputy prime minister and the minister of Finance from Turkey. I can't think of a moment in our history when that country and its leadership has a more important role in global stability. It has come through many, many periods of turmoil, but right at this moment, it is looked at by the rest of the world as being a key to some of the steps that need to be taken to get to final stability.

Mr. Minister, we are so proud and pleased that you are here. You have a very good crowd here today. We will be looking forward to asking you questions when you're finished. Please step forward. (Applause.)

MINISTER ABDULLAH GÜL: Thank you very much. Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, it is my distinct pleasure to address this distinguished audience on probably the most important foreign topic anywhere in the world today. I thank the council for giving me this opportunity. Thank you very much.

Iraq is not only our neighbor, but also a country with which the Turks have really important historical ties. We always kept these very close links going back hundreds of years. Consequently, we have been pursuing a very active policy with regard to the developments in Iraq. Even under today's much strained conditions, the development of economic and commercial relations between Turkey and Iraq is a priority for us. The trade volume, also taking into account the unregistered economic activity alongside the border, exceeds $10 billion today. Hundreds of Turkish contracting companies operate in Iraq. Turkish engineers, workers, technicians were able to complete the infrastructure.

Turkey is the main artery into Iraq. Every group and product essential to the well-being of the Iraqis and the conduct of a (decent ?) daily life passes through Turkey. Let me give a more specific example.

Each year more than 1 million Lorries pass into Iraq from Turkey. That makes almost 400 -- 4,000 Lorries each day. Let me give you an idea about the volumes in question -- so daily 4,000 trucks. Likewise, Turkey is the most reliable land line for the multinational forces. The location of the United States' forces lies through the Incirlik airways in southeastern Turkey. The petroleum products needed by the American forces are also supplied from Turkey. Turkey is one of the main electricity suppliers to Northern Iraq.

We also meet to a large extent Iraqi population's wider need for refined petroleum products.

Distinguished guests, Turkey's priorities in Iraq are almost identical with the ones of the United States. In short, we say political unity and territorial integrity of Iraq must be preserved. Iraq must live in peace with its neighbors and, of course, with its own people. Law -- it comes first in fact -- law and order must be established. Sectarian violence must be prevented, and it must never be let to assume an added ethnic dimension. Central government must be imposed and must remain in control of national wealth of the country to benefit all Iraqis.

Iraqi territory should not be a safe haven for international terrorist organizations. Briefly, the success of United States in Iraq will be our success. In order to achieve these objectives, it goes without saying that the help of Iraq's neighbors is essential. They must reassure the invariability of Iraq's borders. It was with this understanding that Turkey initiated the meetings of the foreign ministers of the neighboring countries of Iraq. There was a series of nine meetings in the last three years. This process should continue. The interior ministers also came together under this platform.

In the same vein, we have kept our contacts with all the main political groups and -- (word inaudible) -- in Iraq. Likewise, we have been talking with all the neighbors, including Syria and Iran, also on a bilateral basis. Our aim has always been to induce every political actor to work for peace and security. We will continue to support the Maliki government in establishing security and reviving the national economy. We have reiterated our offer to train still more Iraqi security forces.

The existing environment does not allow us to believe that security will be attained only by military measures. Such measures should be coupled with a political dimension. More inclusive forces should come to the fore. With this understanding, Turkey has been very much active in widening the political process in Iraq to include the segments which, whether of their own will or not, felt they were at the sidelines of politics.

For example, we have been instrumental in bringing in the Sunnis to the present government, thereby increasing its legitimacy. More recently, Turkey has also supported America's new Iraqi strategy.

Indeed, the urgent need for stopping the heartbreaking violence and ensuring stability is there for all to see. Nothing can be achieved without first securing Baghdad. We are hopeful that all these combined efforts -- the new plan on the one hand and the existing diplomatic initiatives that can be enhanced on the other -- will help us in achieving our common objectives in Iraq.

Indeed, everyone knows that it is the security situation which will eventually make or break these efforts in Iraq. Today the sides fighting in Iraq are bent on (stilling ?) debate for the sectarian agendas by use of wanton indiscriminate force. With each killing, they might seem approaching their aim to decompose Iraq into "statelets."

Of course, history has enough examples for what happens when rival groups jockey for positions. The maximalist claims of any group causes other groups to react in the same way, and after a while, nobody knows who started what and when. It is in the face of such great difficulties that we must not give way to simplistic solutions that take into account neither the complexity of the region nor the peculiar history of the country. Unfortunately, lots of -- (inaudible) -- abound regarding the future of Iraq.

At one recent international event I attended in Davos just a few weeks ago, I came across just one. I was asked, why should Iraq's partition be a problem, after all, was it not both the Soviet Union and the former Yugoslavia were both partitioned? The fellow had no answer when I reminded him that in both cases the states which went independent had recognized borders. Some, like Estonia and Lithuania, were republics in their own right. Recognized already demarcated borders is what is precisely lacking in the case of Iraq.

Even if we had peace, it would still be a folly to try to create independent states out of its society where the level of interdependency is so high, where each ethnic group depends on the others when it comes to all the crucial questions, be it the distribution of national wealth, be it the foreign relations of the country, or the traditional forms of interaction between these groups.

Lately I have been hearing a lot about the so-called soft partition of Iraq. For the same reason, it's another fantasy. Those who expect such notions to work seem to forget one persistent fact of international relations that, for good or bad, were inherited from past centuries; namely, the creation of balance of powers. Indeed, as nature abhors a vacuum, so does the international state system. I very much doubt that even in the case of a soft partition this cardinal rule of international politics will not be activated. I have to repeat, it should be in spite of great difficulties that we must not lose sight of the larger objective of creating a democratic Iraq with its territorial and national unity intact.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, change is the dominant theme of our times. The ongoing revolution in communication technologies acts as a huge lighthouse that sheds light on the most secretive places. Everything takes place out in the open; hence, the increased expectations of people everywhere for transparency, accountability and good governance.

This is nowhere more apparent than the Middle East and the larger Islamic (geography )? The people look for ways to wed their cherished values and traditional identities with universal values and achieve democracy. They really want to live in the 21st century, receive the benefits of what it has to offer. They have every right to aspire so, after all, the huge geography is home for great (human industry ?) tradition. It has distinct human and natural resources that can underpin and sustain growth towards democracy and enlarging civil societies. But of course, all this only when these resources are put to good use.

We have seen, especially in the case of Iraq, how in the lack of democracy and transparency, precious resources are wasted for nothing. It's time for many to finally step into the modern world, take on modern responsibilities, reform, and carry their people to places they long deserve. We must help them in this direction, but we cannot do so with the rising tide of Islamophopbia, which at the end of the day serves no good cause but set against each other the two prominent religions of the world. We cannot do so, again, as long as the Israeli-Palestinian issue continues to evade a just and lasting solution. (Inaudible) -- on the persistence of this question. We must take away all (pretext ?) that the radical rhetorics try and open. Of course positive developments in the Palestinian issue will positively impact the situation in Iraq.

It is in such a world that the example of Turkey transmits a resonating message. The pace of reform in Turkey was called by independent observers as nothing less than a "silent revolution." We are upgrading our democracy to ever-higher standards. We have hit so many -- (word inaudible) -- in the course of just four years. This deep transformation is sustained on the strength of one of the highest rates of economic growth in the world.

The Turkish GNP has grown by 34 percent since 2002, reaching about $400 billion. That makes us the 17th-largest economy in the world and only the 6th largest in Europe. Given the trends, the GNP target of $1 trillion is within sight. Our trade volume has also increased to more than $200 billion last year.

I should also underline the many benefits that will accrue from the predictability that my government injected into Turkish politics after long decades of weakening coalition governments. As a result, Turkey has become a (centrist nation ?).

In the last two years, a total $22.5 billion has come to Turkey as FDI. This is more than the total of FDI came to Turkey throughout the whole Republican era. It's more than 80 years. We have every reason to look forward in confidence.

Turkey, with its military strength, economic growth, and its soft power has a unique position to forward peace, security and prosperity for the benefit of all peoples of its wider region. We will continue to be a force on the side of freedom and stability.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

ZARB: Okay. Let me -- the minister will take questions from the podium.

A few comments and warnings. The cell phones, please, and BlackBerrys are turned off. This is an on-the-record meeting, everybody, so you should know that as you ask your questions.

And Mr. Minister, we thank you very much for an outstanding and penetrating review of what has to be the most important subject on all of our minds. Let me just ask you initially to give us your thoughts on -- there are commentators that talk about Turkey's interest in Iraq, particularly northern Iraq, and under the circumstances which it would intervene. Comment on that observation, please.

GÜL: Well, thank you very much for this question.

As a matter of fact, I received these kind of questions since I've been here. It's good that I get a chance here to share our views with these distinguished people here.

First of all, when a Turk starts to talk about northern Iraq, immediately many people they think that Turks are against Kurds or Turks hate Kurds. This is not the case. This is not the case because historically we are friends. We know them, that we are relatives. And throughout the history we were together, and I believe that we'll be together in that region.

And forgetting the past, recently -- last 10 years -- we protected them when they were attacked under Saddam's forces. Where did they go?
They did not come to America. They did not go to America, Europe. They did not go to other Arab counties or Iran. The 500,000 Turks in two days, they poured into Turkey. And they were our guests not for two days, two weeks, two months; for two years.

After that, when they -- (inaudible) -- started to operate, where did it operate? It operated from Turkey -- U.K., U.S. and Turkey, three of us. We protected them for 10 years. How did all the Iraqi leaders visited here, shared their views? How did they travel around -- around the world?

They came to you with Turkish diplomatic passports. Mr. Barzani, Mr. Talabani, Mr. Mitrogan (ph), Bahram (ph), all of them, they are our friends. This is the reality today. Today, what we are doing, let me tell you. We have been giving electricity to the north, we have been meeting 90 percent of the gasoline from Turkey at the -- I mentioned just now 4,000 trucks, Lorries, are running into Iraq, mostly for them. And they've been providing all their basic needs.

Our engineers, our technicians. They are all there, and they are building up Iraq. They are there -- if there's a new construction over there, if there's new building that's appearing, go and see all the Turkish engineers -- more than 10,000 over there.

Now, we think that if we don't give green light or if we say that we don't like those they are constructing airport over there -- they are operating airport over there, they are helping them -- do you think that they will remain over there? No. Next day they will come back.

So therefore, we are -- we don't have any hostile feelings. And we definitely want to see them in peace over there and support them.

Now, I want to make this clear. We are very sincere for this.

Now, there are two things. The first is terror. I mean, why from time to time there is a (republic ?)? First, there is the terror, the PKK terror -- terrorist organization. Unfortunately, northern Iraq became a safe haven for them.

Now, can you imagine this in your neighborhood; in Mexico, there are terrorists? Can you tolerate this? They will bring explosives inside, they will attack from there, and this country will be a (threatened ?) country.

In the past, the leader of the organization was in Damascus at the time. And that was enemy regime (leaders ?). We were giving these addresses to the authorities over there. They were denying. They were saying that, "Oh, he is not here. They are not here. We will check."

But now they are appearing on TV. Can you understand?

And this country is different ethnically. This regime is different regime. And we have been helping them. And this country is controlled by our allies. How can I explain this to people?

So this is the problem. Definitely if they don't have that authority -- I mean the northern Iraqis over there -- so our allies should do something.

Anyway, our expectation's rather high. So this is one problem.

Another one is this: I mentioned here the territorial integrity and political unity of Iraq is very important for you, for us. First, it is essential for the Iraqis, no matter if they are Arabs, Kurds, Iraqi Turks, or Shi'a, Sunni or non-Muslim Iraqis. It is important because I can't think the alternative, opposite. The alternative -- there's no alternative, because the alternative will be real turmoil, will be real chaos over there, because there will be endless war, and the neighbors -- willingly or unwillingly, they will involve -- we will see more bloodshed. We will see more sufferings over there. No country wants to see this. That's enough. That's -- they should enjoy with their laws, and it's enough for (sufferings ?).

Therefore, when we talk about the territorial integrity of Iraq, sometimes some people, they mind about this. They should not mind. I'm not talking about what kind of system. It's up to the Iraqis what kind of system they will decide.

But we must (shape ?) Iraq, (one ?) Iraq. Here I think I can -- maybe the question is going to be again posed to me, but let me, since I start to talk about this issue, there's another one, Kirkuk. It's connected with this problem.

When we talk about Kirkuk, we know that Kirkuk belongs to Iraq. We don't claim. Yes, we ruled this area for hundred years. You can see some -- (inaudible) -- from us. But our border is fixed. We don't have any border problem. And in this age, I mean, Turks, Kurds, all the others, they may live in different countries. So there are Turks and Kurds in Kirkuk, and (Arabs ?), because they are our relatives and we want to see them peacefully living over there.

Now, we think that Kirkuk is a small Iraq. You find everyone over there. It's a small Iraq. So the peace is essential over there. But we have, unfortunately, sectarian violence. We should not face the ethnic violence. And therefore, we are proposing that a solution should be full, and all the groups over there they should agree on a plan, and such plan should be brought to the referendum. Otherwise, it's not to go just referendum, you see. Suppose that 55 said yes and the others said no, or they will not join in the referendum? So do you think that they are going to solve the problem? No, the problem will get deep and deep.

So what we are saying, that any group should not try to capture and therefore should not do some artificial things over there, changing of the demographic structure. These are not good. It's your city. Baghdad is yours. Basra is yours. And don't try to do this. Who is maximalist in this region always creates a problem -- for himself, for his followers, for his nation.

What was wrong with Saddam. He was secularist. He was -- his lifestyle was modern. But his maximalist policies created the problem. It's why millions of people lost their lives. It's why he was irrational. It's why now we face all these problems. So therefore, we are just advising all those officials in Iraq that they should keep their country together.

And we are ready to help. We have been helping. We are always constructive, and we have continued to be constructive.

I think I should stop.

MR. ZABB: Thank you, Mr. Minister. You asked how could I explain this to people. It seems to me you do more than an adequate job of explaining.

GÜL: Thank you.

MR. ZABB: Thank you very much.

I remind you to please wait for a mike to get to your table. And stand and give us your name and your affiliation. And if we can start right here, please, with the mike. Thank you.

QUESTIONER: Herbert Levin, America-China Forum. Mr. Minister, when one travels in Central Asia, you hear only very nice things about Turkey. The Kyrgyz, the others, don't want any more Moscow influence and wish Afghanistan and Pakistan good luck, but they look to Turkey's success as a model. So I don't think you should be so modest and shy as to leave that our of your speeches. Turkey's very influential in Central Asia.

My question is, along with many others I look forward to Turkey's entry into the European Union. I think it will be good for the Europeans and it will be good for Turkey. How do you satisfy the Europeans? How do you satisfy them on the Cyprus question? How do you make the patriarch happy? How do you handle this, in the interests of Europe and Turkey and the whole world?

Thank you.

GÜL: Thank you very much.

First of all, I have to thank this country that you supported us in this issue. We felt your support very strong behind. All administrations and all intellectuals, politicians supported us. I have to thank for this first.

Then, the problem is deciding. Some members, they worried about our speed because they were not expecting from my government to stick to this issue very strongly, you see. I remember well that before the election in 2002 there were different feelings and perception, and I think they were not really expecting that Turkey would go further. But when they saw we were really (keen ?), and we really proved ourselves in transforming the country, upgrading our standards, I think they little bit stopped worrying. Now I think they thought that with this speed, we are going to finish this negotiation -- (inaudible) -- times, so they want to slow down this process.

Of course, the Europe member countries, they have different attitudes, behaviors, understandings. Some of them, they are not well aware of their even powers -- (word inaudible) -- power. They're very much confused at interior politics, sometimes interparty politics -- (inaudible). So therefore, some of them are not keen that we are not going to be a burden on EU, on the member countries, that we are going to be an asset. So therefore, they want to slow down this process.

But anyhow, with the German presidency we are going to start to open three more chapters. So the target is the same, and nothing has been delayed, but it's slowed down. The most important thing is my government's decision. We decided that -- we announced that we would continue with this reform process, political reform process and economic reform process, because we understand that and we believe it is the transformation of Turkey.

At the end of the negotiation process, I don't know. It's up to some member countries' people. So far, for instance, Austria, they decided to have a referendum on Turkey. So I tell them that -- (inaudible) -- why you are arguing from today? Why you are debating us? It is nonsense. Next year we are not going to join. We are not going to declare that we are ready. They think that there will be time for that.

And also, we know that big country's accession process takes longer time, like U.K. and Spain. So therefore, not to beat us today. At the end, the key is in your hand, because they decide to go to referendum. Even if we are very successful in negotiation period and we successfully finish this part, if the commission says that yes, Turkey is eligible to join here, then they will ask their people and they will decide. That's why the key is in their hand.

So if this is the case, why you are debating Turkey today? It is very much artificial. And unfortunately, Cyprus issue is a pretext for many of them, because, I mean, it's so clear that Turkish government and Turkish people on the island, they proved their good intention and their readiness for the compromise for the solution. Annan plan, although it was called the Annan plan, it was the plan of, of course, U.N. and all P-5, EU, supported, campaigned for this plan. And unfortunately, it was rejected.

I mean, just you ask yourself. I mean, you ask yourself, before the referendum, what are you thinking? You are all mostly thinking that the Greek-Cypriot people, they want the right to the island; Turks are blocking this. So Greek Cypriots, they are for the reunification of the island; Turks are creating problem. But the referendum proved that Turks said yes, compromise. But the other side rejected. This is why there was a shock.

Now, what else the Turks can do? We are always forthcoming. (Inaudible) -- joined in EU against their principles, because there is a well-known principle in EU that a country wishes to join that first should solve border problems, internal problems, and it should not bring any problem inside EU. That is the well-established principle. But what happens now? The Cyprus issue is the issue of U.N. Security Council, but now it became the issue of EU, and unfortunately, it is being used as a pretext there.

ZARB: Thank you.

QUESTIONER: (Name inaudible) -- New York University. Dr. Gül, you have given admirable leadership on the European question, on the Cyprus question. Could you tell me what the limits of Turkish patience are? How much will you endure if these negotiations go on and it becomes apparent that the European Union or parts of it are not prepared to admit Turkey? What will your government -- what's your standby plan, what will you do in those circumstances?

GÜL: Well, we don't have any alternative plan, let me say. I mean, some people, they think that all Turkey will go to -- East Turkey as a separatist region, that region. No, I mean, everything is so clear for us. We will go with this (line ?), as I said, we will even open the chapters ourselves and then close it, because these are good for Turkey and Turkish people. That's why they have been doing it. We are not getting any consensus for EU or European countries, we are giving the right of Turkish people. These rights were (agreed ?). So therefore, they are very key.

And at the end, if they don't change their minds, it's up to them, of course. There's a country like Norway, they are not a member of EU, but they negotiated, they finished. So they have the same standards. Therefore, what's important for us to reach the same standards, when I say the standard in terms of democracy, economy and in other important fields. And I'm sure that when we achieve this goal, Turkey -- Turkey's already a source of inspiration for our neighbors. If you follow the newspapers, magazines in our neighborhood, you will see how they admire what's happening on -- (inaudible). How they question that why Turkey is doing -- (inaudible).

I'll give you another example: 17 December 2004 the real decision was taken to start the accession negotiation with Turkey in Brussels. Two-hundred seventy journalists from different parts of the Islamic world, 270 journalists from -- (inaudible) -- to (moderate ?) countries, from Iraq to Saudi Arabia, from Iran to Syria, they came and they just took themselves, and they followed, monitored that summit, just to see what's going on, what was going, what is the result. And when the decision was there the next day, the next week all of them covered it very positively.

So I believe that a country, the big majority -- 70 million, 73 million people, the big majority, the Muslim, Muslim country, is fulfilling the European style of democracy, this is very important, is very important. And I think that we are fulfilling because we met the EU political criteria called Copenhagen Political Criteria, which is the only condition to start the negotiation. And we don't say that well, yes, Turkey is meeting these criteria. The commission-prepared report, and commission decided that, yes, sufficiently all this criterion was met in Turkey. So therefore, I think this is a real gift to the world, you see.

ZARB: The last table in the back.

QUESTIONER: (Name and affiliation inaudible.) Nice to see you, sir. The last time I saw you in Davos, I had the privilege of moderating your session, and you spoke of a conversation that's going on between Turkey and Iran about several matters, including what would happen in Iraq should the United States withdraw abruptly, immediately; what would happen if they pull out certain -- if there is talk of going to certain areas in the north of Iraq to have bases.

Where did this conversation go so far? Where is it at, given the fact that there is another important conversation going on between the Iranians and the Saudis? How nervous are the Iranians, from your point of view, seeing the build-up of the fleet, American fleet, in the neighborhood?

GÜL: Well thank you. (Laughter.) She was so kind, in fact, to lead our discussion in Davos.

Iran is our neighbor. When I say one fact, people they can't believe -- our border with Iran is stable since 1638. (Laughter.) So it's longer than the American state. They have different regime, we have different regime, but we are friends and we are neighbors. So definitely we have to talk about the issues.

Like in Davos, I think I mentioned about this nuclear issue there, how we are involved in this and tried to help this situation. But for Iraq, we are coming together for Iran, but not only Iran, the others. Before the war, we initiated a platform, I mentioned in my statement that it's called Neighboring Countries Meetings for Iraq. And there Iran, Syria and other countries, they are coming together and we are all talking that we should help Iraqis and we should keep their political unity and territorial integrity. And therefore, we should be constructive. And each meeting we issue a statement -- written -- and we repeat all these goals. And Iran also, I mean they sign this. So far, that is it.

When we come together, of course Iraq is always an issue and we talk about it. But I believe that Iran also doesn't want to see the division of Iraq. They see that division, partition of Iraq is not good for their interests. That's what I see. I'm not saying that they are not doing this and that and something else, because they have leverage over there, we know this, all right? That's something else. But at least we believe that they don't want to see the partition of Iraq also.

ZARB: Right here.

QUESTIONER: Thank you, Mr. Minister. George Schwab, National Committee on American Foreign Policy. Apropos Iran, would you address specifically the nuclear issue, how your government views it, Iran perhaps going nuclear not for the purpose of electricity, but nuclear weapons. Thank you.

GÜL: These are all big issues.

MR. ZARB (?): All easy questions.

GÜL: We don't want to see weapon of mass destruction in our neighborhood, that's clear.

When we were in the board of International Atomic Energy Agency, we used our work in that direction. But the issue is serious. Last year, I visited there for this purpose and I talked with them, also our friends here and in Europe, they knew all these things. I will tell you that the leadership in Iran, they appreciated this package you offered them. I heard this from them. What you offer in the package, it was appreciated by them, and they took it serious. But their problem was this -- I mean, the condition was you stop the (recycling ?) then we will negotiate, but we will deliver this package to you, so it should satisfy you.

At that time, although they appreciated this package and in spite of that, they have stated if those are going to be delivered or not. And for that, they ought to get some guarantees that all right, we stopped this, (recycling ?), but are you really going to deliver what you promised in this package to us? So this was the problem there. I intensively involved in this, told all the leaders at that time, and of course conveyed these messages and these understandings here and there, Solana and the others. They all knew this. But it was cut from there. I believe that it's worth working on this issue, because it is really an important issue.

ZARB: Right here.

QUESTIONER: Thank you. Felice Gaer, the Jacob Blaustein Institute. Mr. Minister, thank you for your commitment on the effort to achieve European Union standards across the board. I wanted to ask you about freedom of expression standards.

We all understand that there is a current of strong nationalism in Turkey and that the -- that undercurrent of nationalism doesn't brook any criticism of the country. Obviously, Article 301 of the Criminal Code, which provides a crime of insulting Turkishness, is part of this current of nationalism. With the recent murder of Hrant Dink, with the view towards EU accession, I'm wondering if you call tell us, do you think there is any possibility -- first of all, what is your view of Article 301? And do you think you support its repeal or that that would be possible in today's Turkey?

GÜL: First of all, let me say this, that we are going to change this -- amend this Article 301. We started this before, but -- in fact, before, unfortunately, the killing of Hrant Dink. The prime minister himself, we invite the NGOs of Turkey because they are really helping us, we invited them that what kind of change do you want? Let's have a compromise, all of us, and we will pass that in the parliament. It was before this killing, last month. And still, there are doing some of it. But in any case, we are going to change this.

But I really want to change this. Why, you know? Of course, we face some problem in terms of expression of opinion.

But for me, another important side is this. This article is shadowing our reform process. It gives an image to you that expression of opinion is not there; I cannot express my opinion. If I express my opinion, we are put in the prison. And you would think that the books cannot be published, or you may think that the people cannot criticize the government or the other things. So this gives that -- I mention to you this (right ?). (We don't deserve that ?). We want to change this first.

Secondly, this 301 -- the criminal code, (penalty ?) code item, because of that, you think that -- I mean, the people think that there are some in -- journalists, intellectuals are in the prison. This is not the case.

You know last year we changed the whole penal code as a package. We changed all of that -- more than, I think, 500 items, something like that. We change all of that.

We change also this. This was different before.

Then the (courts/course ?) of direction was to reach the higher standard. We don't want to see anyone to face problem because of his or her opinion. We like or not, we hate or we support. If there is (not any ?) violence behind of any opinion, that opinion should be free in Turkey. This is why we want it.

But unfortunately, some prosecutors, they open fights against some intellectuals or writers because of 301, although none of (one ?) was punished because of this. There is no final verdict yet, because the whole code is new. There is a -- you need a process, you need a court decision, (upper call ?). They should challenge that. And at the end, we should have a final verdict.

Hrant Dink case was -- unfortunately, he was punished. But (to kill, it was at ?) the final verdict. So therefore no one was put in the prison because of this.

But difficulties are there. Let me say that we will see the final process. If we see that this 301 is creating problem, definitely we will change this. This was our position before.

You can say that we should not have (any role ?). In fact, in some of the member countries, they have the similar (sic). We got this from them. But the implementation is going wrong, unfortunately. So therefore, we face this problem.

You may think that from -- our winner prize, Orhan Pamuk, he was put in the prison because of this, or Elif Shafak, once she was in the prison because of this. No. But (unfortunately ?), the prosecutors opened (file ?), but the court dismissed all these things.

So therefore I said this is a shadow on our reform process. But anyhow, we are going to change it.

Of course, the killing of Hrant Dink was so sad. We all felt very bad about it. When we heard this killing, we were having a ministerial meeting. We stop, and the prime minister, he headed the investigation, in fact. I mean, he lead everything, and he gave instruction, and in short time, in 30 hours, the killer was caught. In the past, when there was a political assassination, they all escaped.

So we caught him. There's a full-fledged investigation is going on there.

And the reaction of the people, Turkish people, it was remarkable, enormous. Thousands of people demonstrate. They walk 10 kilometers. Istanbul is more than 10 million. The main artery, street was closed by traffic. Can you imagine this in Paris, in London? The government was there. So it was really very sad.

We also invited diaspora here for this, and also people from Armenia, and they were our guests. And they were very much impressed with what they saw there.

ZARB: We have time for one more fast question. Dr. Brademas.

QUESTIONER: Mr. Minister, thank you very much. John Brademas, 3rd Congressional District of Indiana and New York University. Although I am the first Greek American elected to the Congress of the United States, six years ago at the Bosphorus University, I said I hoped for a democratic Turkey, for Turkey in Europe and for Turkey as a member of the European Union, provided that Turkey met the Cophenhagen criteria for membership.

You've already heard an expression of one concern about 301. There are two others that I would mention.

Cyprus. I led the fight, as you know, to impose an arms embargo on Turkey after Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974, with American weapons, which is illegal. There are 43,000 Turkish troops, when I last heard, on the island of Cyprus.

I do not understand how a country that aspires to be a member of the European Union should militarily occupy another European Union member state. I was in Oxford last month talking at a conference on Turkey, and I said to Lord Hannay, whom you know, that I don't think you'd be happy if you had a German military force occupying Oxfordshire, although the U.K. and Germany are both members of NATO.

ZARB: We're going to have to speed up the question.

QUESTIONER: Second -- I'm a child of the House, and not the Senate, Frank. (Laughter.)

The other concern I have I illustrate by telling you that 73 members of the United States Senate wrote a letter to President Bush a few weeks ago complaining about persecution by the Turkish government of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople, in Istanbul. Those are two concerns I have.

I am not concerned that Turkey is a Muslim state. I know others are. That doesn't upset me. I'm a separation of church and state man. But I don't see how Turkey will ever get into the European Union so long as you militarily occupy another European Union member state.

ZARB: Thank you.

QUESTIONER: Mr. Speaker Zarb, I yield back the balance of my time.

GÜL: Well, thank you. I understand your feeling, of course. But I have to also remind you that Turkish troops went there under the guarantee right; you know, the constitution, 1950 constitution. Turkey, Greece and U.K., these are the guarantor of Cyprus. When there was a military coup d'etat over there. We wanted to use this right together with U.K. and with Greeks. We asked them, let's go there, because even the President Makarios, he had to leave, and he asked this.

And we were very much worrying about the Turks over there because there were so many mass killings over there. So U.N. troops went there 1953. Why did they go there? Since then, why the U.N. peacekeeping forces are there? If we go there, we will see the mass graves opened by the U.N. people over there. Why this happened? Is a little unfortunate, of course. I mean, the people they should live peaceful over there, but this was not the case, unfortunately. And therefore, the Turkish troops went there just to guarantee their lives under this guarantee right. So they -- (inaudible) -- occupy over there. And we want to withdraw our troops. If the Greek Cypriot people voted yes for the referendum, there will not be any Turkish troops over there. So they refused the withdrawal of the Turkish troops.

Now, we are agreeing everything, but unfortunately, there is two realities over there, two different nations, two different languages, two different religions and two different (democracies ?) over there. I mean, if -- you know, it is a really strange that in this small island, there is no inter-marriage. Isn't it strange? It is against the nature. Human beings in France, in U.K., in America, the people are different people. They are going there to vote. They are getting married. In this small island, it's unnatural. There was one, there was one couple, but with the coup d'etat, they were killed (by a citizen ?). They were killed.

So this is the reality. So that's why we have been trying to find a comprehensive solution there. That's why we changed our traditional policies; we compromised -- (inaudible) -- for the plan. We know that in order to solve the problems you cannot get 100 percent, you have to compromise. We compromised. But unfortunately, they rejected the plan. If they did not, so there wouldn't be any troops over there.

Now, they are a member of EU now, but they are not representing the whole island, the whole people over there. This is also another fact. So let's find a solution. Let's move forward. We strongly believe that Turkey, Greece and United Cyprus can create -- and others -- region in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and we can cooperate. We have been cooperating with Greece now. And we can include Cyprus in this cooperation. But unfortunately, (Mr. Papadopoulos's ?) policy is very much different. So I'm sorry.

ZARB: Mr. Minister, we owe you a thanks. You were complete, you were candid, you were terrific. (Applause.)

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