Transcript

PrintPrint EmailEmail ShareShare CiteCite
Style:MLAAPAChicagoClose

loading...

A Conversation with Abdullah Gül

Speaker: Abdullah Gül, President, Republic of Turkey
Presider: Robert E. Rubin, Co-Chairman, Council on Foreign Relations, Former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury
September 24, 2010
Council on Foreign Relations

Media

Share

ROBERT RUBIN: Good morning, and welcome. I'm Bob Rubin, and I am very pleased on behalf of the council to welcome you to today's Council on Foreign Relations meeting with our distinguished guest, the president of the Republic of Turkey, Abdullah Gül.

The president was nice enough to say that this is the foremost forum in New York to be at.

Let me say, Mr. President, that we are deeply, deeply honored to have you with us.

Let me remind you that all cell phones should be off, including the vibrator, because they apparently interfere with our sound system which doesn't work so well anyway. (Laughs.)

Let me also remind you that all of the remarks and also the Q&A will be on the record.

As I said a moment ago, it is a great honor to introduce our guest speaker. I will not, consistent with the practices of the council, recite his resume. It's in your materials. But let me just observe that as foreign minister and then deputy prime minister between 2002 and 2007, President Gül played a leading role in shaping Turkey's democratic and economic reforms. And that, in turn, led to the European Commission issuing a formal invitation to enter into negotiations with respect to EU membership.

As president, he has remained an important force for democratic reform, and that was most recently the case with respect to the recent successful referendum on the constitution dealing with, amongst other matters, the role of the military and independent judiciary.

Turkey has had, as you know, remarkable economic performance. It is now the 16th-largest economy in the world, and it is now part of global governance with respect to economic issues because of its membership in the G-20.

Turkey is also of pivotal importance for many geopolitical issues such as Iran, the balance of power in the Mideast and the role of democracy in the Islamic world.

In addition, with respect to the referendum I mentioned a moment ago, it is centrally important with respect to the future of Turkey and also has some unresolved issues that still need to be worked through.

For all of these reasons, we at the council are most fortunate to have President Gül join us today to discuss so many matters that are of critical importance to Turkey, to the United States and to the entire global community.

Our speaker will deliver his remarks in English, I will then have a brief discussion with the president. And if he decides to respond in Turkish, then that will be translated. And then we'll take questions from the members. And that will be in English, but he may be in Turkish, in which case we'll have a consecutive translation.

So without further ado, it is an enormous privilege, a great pleasure to introduce our distinguished guest, the president of the Republic of Turkey, Abdullah Gül.

Mr. President, we welcome you. (Applause.)

PRESIDENT ABDULLAH GÜL: President Haass, ladies and gentlemen, good morning. It's a great pleasure for me once again to be here at the Council on Foreign Relations and to address such an esteemed gathering of friends.

CFR has been one of the leading intellectual centers in the U.S. on foreign policy issues. With its able leadership, powerful team of experts and official publications, notably Foreign Affairs magazine, the council has always been a place where the great policymakers share their ideas and collaborations.

I still remember my first speech at CFR in 1997 (and our friends remember still ?) when I was minister of state. Since then, I always enjoyed a -- (inaudible) -- similar events organized by CFR. It's a very prestigious place to make a speech here, so I very much -- (inaudible).

Ladies and gentlemen, during the Cold War years and for a while afterwards, security-related issues were at the core of our relations. Indeed, Turkey and the United States had been vital to each other's security interests for many decades.

We are still together in the face of international challenges, from Korea to Bosnia, and from Somalia to Afghanistan. It has been a welcome partnership based on shared democratic values and an agenda for positive change on regional and global issues of common interests.

However, the -- (inaudible) -- international system have produced a clear element of multidimensionality in our bilateral relations. Officially, our partnership has to reflect the realities of our age. Although still important, security issues are no longer the full determinant of our partnership.

Today, our common agenda for cooperation extends from values, regions and countries, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Middle East, the Balkans, the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean, the important thematic issues related to energy security, nuclear nonproliferation, the fight against terrorism, the global financial crisis, cultural polarization, polity and development.

Therefore, our relationship cannot solely be qualified as a strategic partnership anymore. It should be a more comprehensive, global partnership, as President Obama characterized it during the first overseas bilateral visit to Turkey last year.

The regional -- (inaudible) -- partnership requires that we enhance our relationship in values -- (inaudible) -- in relation to security. In particular, we should bring our economy and commensurate relations to a level that is proportional with our political and military relations.

I raised this point with President Obama when he visited us last year and proposed a strategy, a new mechanism in our dialogue for economic issues. I sincerely appreciate his immediate endorsement of this idea. With President Obama's backing, the first (national ?) meeting of the Framework for Strategic Economic and Commercial Cooperation will be had on October 19, 2010 in Washington.

Furthermore, the business council which will convene for the first time with this new framework will serve as an important instrument to encourage closer cooperation between our private sectors.

I believe that all these intensified and institutionalized contacts will translate into tangible achievements in our economic and commercial ties between the U.S. and Turkey.

Ladies and gentlemen, in an increasingly globalized world, Turkey continues to be a constructive actor in its region and to make positive contributions to the establishment of a peaceful and viable international system. Many problems affecting world peace and security take place in Turkey's vicinity.

We aim to inspire confidence in our region by mobilizing political, economic and human resources. We deploy all our (real assets ?) in order to seek stability, peace and prosperity for all.

Those assets (innate ?) from those democratic values, history, social and cultural ties, growing economic abilities and, above all, our ability to understand different dynamics at play in a vast area spanning from Munich to Asia. This makes Turkey a source of inspiration for many countries and regions in the world.

Unfortunately, not everyone is fully aware of what Turkey has already achieved and what more we are capable of accomplishing. Within the last couple of months, we have observed the emergence of an unfavorable narrative in the U.S. media and in the U.S. Congress regarding Turkey.

I believe that there is a considerable gap between the perceptions and the realities about Turkey stemming from biased judgments or inaccurate information. Some issues that do not necessarily pertain directly to our bilateral relations with the United States have nevertheless have a bearing on our relationship, such as the draft resolution on the events of 1915, Iran's nuclear program and the Gaza aid convoy incident.

Normally, issues like this would have nothing to do with the status of our bilateral relations. They nevertheless pose a considerable risk to them. There were times that our relations were tested by challenges. However, the ultimate direction manifested by common sense and -- (inaudible) -- has always pointed to a strong partnership between Turkey and the United States.

Therefore, we must work together to explain to our respective domestic audience the true nature of Turkish-American relations. We should describe how our close cooperation serves both our countries' national interests as well as why the cooperation is essential for regional and global peace. While we may at times differ on the approach, our ultimate objectives have been identical.

As long-time allies, both our nations want to promote peace and stability across the globe. As was the case in the past, Turkey is and will remain a strong, committed and viable ally of the United States.

I also would like to challenge the narrative of shift of emphasis in Turkish foreign policy. Our multidimensional geography dictates that we pursue active and -- (inaudible) -- policies to address the challenges surrounding Turkey. In our part of the world, local problems can quickly escalate into regional crisis, as well -- as well -- as -- (inaudible) -- or (exclusion ?) is not a viable option.

Therefore, our efforts are -- (inaudible) -- but engagement, dialogue with consideration and cooperation.

Like the United States, Turkey cannot remain indifferent to the developments in our region. Hence, accusing Turkey of shifting its Western orientation because of its result-oriented and constructive initiatives, say, in the Middle East is no different than us blaming the U.S. for abandoning its trans-Atlantic ties because of efforts to address the challenges in the Pacific.

Distinguished guests, there are many issues where Turkey -- Turkish views foreign policy -- (inaudible). It's my sincere -- sincerely -- sincere (comment ?) that our foreign cooperation will serve like a diplomatic multiplier in the resolution of a significant number of political, global and regional challenges and conflicts. We believe Afghanistan and Iraq are the cases in point.

Let me begin with the Middle East peace process. Finding peace in the Middle East holds the key to a peaceful and stable future in the world. Nevertheless, the (access ?) of peace there has had a series of, at best, strategic consequences for the rest of the world.

Therefore, we always supported all efforts to reach a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. With this understanding, we appreciate President Obama's effort and welcome the direct negotiations between Israelis and the Palestinians. We hope that this new engagement can take us closer to a viable and fair settlement.

With regard to the Israeli military attacks against a civilian military aid convoy on the high seas in May, at the outset we tried to prevent any unwarranted action and were always in contact with Israel. Nonetheless, the attack resulted in great civilian casualties and was an unacceptable act in clear violation of international law.

Therefore, we attach particular importance to the work of the panel of inquiry and fact-finding mission at the U.N. We believe that the recently published report of the fact-finding commission of the U.N. Human Rights Council offers a solid legal framework for establishing a fact about the incident. We also look forward to successful completion of the work of the panel.

That said, I must also emphasize that Turkey and Israel are friends. There are strong, centuries-old ties of friendship between our peoples. Turkey was the first Muslim-majority country to recognize Israel back in 1949. Yet we cannot pretend as if nothing happened this past May. Therefore, we expect Israel to take the necessary steps.

In sum, I want to underline that Turkey supports all efforts aimed at achieving a lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East. Naturally, we are more than ready to further deepen our cooperation with the U.S. and contribute to U.S. efforts and initiatives to that end.

Ladies and gentlemen, Turkey and the United States share a common vision regarding Iraq and our objectives -- (inaudible). The ultimate aim of both countries is to have Iraq become a democratic political ally, unified, stable and economically prosperous country where the rule of law and respect for human life prevails.

Our objective is also to support Iraq in its efforts to integrate with the international community. With this goal in mind, Turkey has been actively involved and played a key role in all -- (inaudible) -- numerous problematic issues. For instance, we convinced the Sunni Iraqis to join the political process.

We also introduced a new bilateral framework of cooperation and completed 48 memoranda of understandings that promote increased collaboration on a wide range of sectors.

Turkey's policy towards Iraq has always been driven by the need to establish a stable political and security environment that will help our Iraqi neighbors devote their energies to building a prosperous future for themselves.

Moreover, we sincerely desire that the new government in Iraq will reflect the balance that emerged at the elections. The new government must be inclusive, effective and democratic. In the aftermath of the withdrawal of foreign combat troops, we also urge all neighbors of Iraq to act responsibly and support the territorial integrity, political unity and solidarity of Iraq.

As Turkey and the United States are now cooperating in the political process and including all parties to find ways to overcome the obstacles they face in their negotiations to form a viable government, (theirselves and allies ?) are also collaborating on the withdrawal of American military equipment via Turkey.

We are glad to see that Iraq, once a thorn in our bilateral relations with the U.S., is now an area of extensive cooperation and collaboration that testifies to the value of model partnership.

Ladies and gentlemen, Iran is a rather important topic that has been on the global agenda for many years. The developments concerning this country are of vital interest to Turkey, both as a neighbor and as a responsible member of the international community.

Our seat on the U.N. Security Council has been, with others, a voice certainly not only (for furthering ?) our engagement with Iran.

Our nation -- (inaudible) -- Turkey mobilizes all its assets to promote dialogue, peace and cooperation. We believe in employing every possible peaceful measures for resolving international disputes. Our relationship with Iran is a clear example of this approach.

Turkey's relations with Iran allow us to give open and direct messages to its leadership. This benefits the international community, too. (Inaudible) -- in the regime, in the region, diplomacy offers one viable avenue for a lasting solution.

In this context, the Tehran declaration is an important confidence-building step that aims to pave the way towards a peaceful resolution of Iran's nuclear -- (inaudible). I'm sure you all want to hear the reasons why we are against tough sanctions which the U.N. Security Council adopted on June 9th in Resolution 1929.

We believe our (role ?) reflected our principled stance in favor of a diplomatic solution. Our position does not under any circumstances mean unconditional support for Iran's nuclear program. On the contrary, we have made it clear to the U.N. that we do not want Iran to have nuclear weapons in our neighborhood.

What we want to do is give diplomacy a chance, the time and space to succeed. Eventually, our efforts kept the diplomatic track alive. Now (we can see ?) diplomacy, engagement and sustained negotiations stand a much better chance of producing desired results than rigid sanctions which end up harming civilian population of neighboring countries alike.

There is yet room and time for a peacefully negotiated resolution of these sensitive issues. These opportunities should not be missed. Turkey will remain engaged and ready to bring a valid -- (inaudible) -- solution of this very critical matter which has the potential for (breaking the quest ?) for peace in the Middle East.

Ladies and gentlemen, in a variety of issues top on our agenda, I wish to touch upon another important subject, Afghanistan.

Securing peace in Afghanistan will mean stability, security and prosperity for Afghans, the region and the world. Turkey invests heavily in the future of Afghanistan with which we enjoy deep-rooted, multidimensional relations. The focal points of Turkish -- (inaudible) -- and those in Afghanistan include education -- particularly of girls -- (inaudible) -- infrastructure and capacity building, particularly the training of Afghan national security forces.

Our assistance program has provided medical treatments to 1 million Afghanistan, education to 70,000 boys and girls and training to 13,000 Afghan soldiers and police. The 70,000 boys and girls are going to Turkish schools there. We opened the schools, we built the schools. And the teaching language is English, Turkish and Afghan language. So all those girls and boys, they speak fluent in English and in other languages.

Thirty-three -- (inaudible) -- out of -- (inaudible) -- provinces of Afghanistan have been committed by Turkish assistance programs. In two provinces, Turkey maintains civilian-led provincial construction teams, called PRTs, that help bring assistance to local people. We alone took the command of ISAF twice in the past. Now the Kabul regional military command is led by a Turkish general and his 1,800 officers and soldiers.

While some of our allies were withdrawing their soldiers from Afghanistan or not ready to take any responsibility, we decided to lead the Kabul regional command for one more year after a request from -- (inaudible) -- President Obama. In fact, there was no committee to take over from us, so we decided to continue. This happened in the past also.

In a nutshell, I can tell you that we are currently mounting the most comprehensive assistance program in Afghanistan in our republic's history. Our commitment to Afghanistan is open-ended. It will continue as long as the Afghans require it.

We are making (parallel ?) efforts on the diplomatic front, especially with respect to the regional dimension. Before the end of this year, we will have organized no less than 20 international meetings, including three Turkey/Afghanistan/Pakistan presidential summits with a focus on Afghanistan. This is really important.

As you may remember, when President Bush attempted to bring leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan together in Washington ended with a fiasco due to the lack of confidence between the leaders. If you remember, they didn't shake hands, they left there. It was three or four years ago.

So our efforts are hard to match, and the achievements are concrete and long-lasting. Take the example of the trilateral summits among Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan, which have evolved in the last three years into a comprehensive process. The presidents, ministers, parliamentarians, chiefs of staff and, most importantly, intelligence directors have met many times.

We also -- (inaudible) -- trilateral mechanism for businessmen and -- (inaudible) -- progress.

Finally, we are constantly encouraging Afghan groups to take appropriate steps towards -- (inaudible) -- national unity and solidarity. In fact, why these trilateral meetings are important, there is no climate between Afghanistan and Pakistan to work together, which is essential, fundamental. We are trying to create this climate between the leaders, not only leaders, between the establishments. And it's going -- (inaudible).

Ladies and gentlemen, as a strong NATO ally -- (inaudible) -- to the European Union and member of many regional, global organizations, Turkey is in networked and connected powers. We believe that the path of an effective and fair global order goes through local building blocks as well. So on a regional scale, Turkey is already playing an active part in shaping the future.

However -- (inaudible) -- Turkish foreign policy is definitely not focused on regional issues alone. We try to usher in a better global economic structure through our participation in the G-20 while being known as diligent about issues like global warming, combating terrorism and ensuring sustainable energy supplies and eradicating poverty.

As a global power, I know the United States should engage with its partners in each of these issues. For instance, combating terrorism constitutes one of the most important areas of cooperation between Turkey and the United States. We believe that this threat cannot be conquered without sincere, effective and confident international cooperation.

Our struggle against terrorism is bound to fail unless we fight all terrorist organizations irrespective of their so-called political, ideological, ethnical (ph), religious aims.

As the two (of us ?) both suffering from terrorism, we should enhance our cooperation in fighting terrorist organizations such al Qaeda and PKK. (Inaudible) -- I can assure that Turkey is collaborating 100 percent with the U.S.

Furthermore, we are keenly extending a helping hand to -- (inaudible) -- the world still struggling -- (inaudible) -- chronic problems.

As all these makes clear, we are driven by a desire to make our modest contribution to the global efforts along with our allies. In this regard, I believe our -- (inaudible) -- so far as a responsible non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council also speaks for itself.

Distinguished guests, these are only some of more urgent issues of a long list of subjects that I -- (inaudible). Going through the entire list would probably require a dozen CFR speeches. (Laughter.) Despite -- (inaudible) -- Turkey and the United States have displayed an exemplary (speed ?) of cooperation and solidarity.

Although there is plenty of space for improvement, we should not lose sight of the value of what we already have. Therefore, for all those who attach importance to U.S.-Turkish relations, let us continue to protect, cherish and further enrich this vital partnership in the years to come. Let us broaden and deepen our relationship to leave a legacy of two of our nations whose exemplary collaboration make a difference for peace and stability in this century.

I believe that the Council on Foreign Relations will also do its share in that regard and promote this model partnership.

Thank you very much.

(Applause.)

RUBIN: That was remarkably substantive, Mr. President. Would you sit here, and I'll sit here? Okay. Good.

Well, let me start by saying, Mr. President, that I have been, as many of the people here have been, at a lot of addresses by heads of states, prime ministers, presidents. This was a remarkably substantive and specific speech, and we thank you.

You said that a dozen more would be required to complete your program. Well, this is one. (Laughter.) You've got 11 to go.

GÜL: Yes.

RUBIN: Let me start with this, if I may, Mr. President. You referred to your vote on Iran.

GÜL: Yes.

RUBIN: And then you gave us your view as to why Turkey voted against sanctions. How do you think the global community should think about Iran?

And secondly, at what point, if Iran continues to move, as it seems to be, in the direction of nuclearization, at what point do you think that the global community should step up its efforts and at what point do you think that Turkey might have a change of view? What do we look for that tells us that we really need to change strategies?

(All following remarks by President Gül were made through an interpreter.)

GÜL: Thank you. Let me start by saying very clearly at the outset that we do not take the nuclear issue lightly at all. And we are a country that will not tolerate and is against nuclear weapons in a neighboring country or in its region.

Now, having given you this basic principle or framework for Turkish policy with regard to nuclear weapons, you say that Iran, as a member of the IAEA and a party to the NPT, has benefit or is part of that process. But it's been asked that Iran should be more transparent. And the problem arises because of this lack of transparency.

Now, how to solve the problem? This problem and its solution can be in two ways. One could be war; the other one could be through diplomacy. And our goal is to try to find a solution to this problem through diplomacy. Everybody would like to see a diplomatic solution to the problem, of course, the United States and all the other countries, but perhaps we're in a position where we want to see this diplomatic solution take place more than others, because if there is war, the war will take place in our region, it will take place in a neighboring country.

And we have experienced since the 1990s with the wars that took place in Iraq. It has had security implications, political implications, economic implications. And those consequences also lead us to be even more engaged in trying to find a diplomatic solution to the current problem at hand.

With regard to -- I think the question to ask here is, with regard to the diplomatic route, who has the capacity or does Turkey have the capacity to act and be involved diplomatically with Iran? If you look at all the allied countries, our allies, which leaders amongst those countries can have the capacity, the ability to be able to have direct talks, discussions with the Iranian leaders, including the supreme leader, the religious leader? Who, other than the Turkish president, Turkish prime minister, Turkish foreign minister, amongst the allied countries, have the capacity to be able to communicate and convey the messages that need to be conveyed to the Iranians? There isn't anyone.

And that's why we are very much involved. And it is exactly for this reason that we are trying to do everything that we can to make sure that this process moves forward. And that in itself should not be misunderstood, because this is the basis of what we are trying to do with Iran.

Yesterday while President Obama addressed the General Assembly, he said with respect to this issue that the diplomatic window is still open. It is because Turkey has this ability or it has provided this opportunity that the diplomatic window is still open, because otherwise Iran is a country that has great history, great culture. And if it were so that each party dug their heels and kept firm in their own positions and this led to some unwanted results, they can go all the way to the very end, the Iranians can.

So it's very important that we focus in this framework of diplomacy. And since the vote which you mentioned, there have also been positive things. And we've always been in communication with all the parties. And I can say I believe that in the near future, too, there will be still positive things.

RUBIN: Thank you, Mr. President. I thank you, and that's a very thoughtful answer. I guess the question still lies as, if at some point the diplomatic process doesn't seem to be working, what should the global community do?

GÜL: There is no doubt, as I said at the very beginning of my remarks, that we are definitely against nuclear weapons. Because if there is a nuclear weapon in Iran or in any other country in the region, the threat to me, to Turkey would be much more than the threat to the United States, for example.

And as I referred to somewhere else during this week, this is like two friends walking on the street. When one of the friends acquires a pistol and the other one doesn't, and the behavior of the one that has the pistol will quite naturally be somewhat different. And the one who doesn't have the pistol is definitely going to feel a little different vis-a-vis his friend.

So that is to say, and I will repeat what I said at the very beginning, we do not take the nuclear issue lightly at all. And also because it's not going to be the U.S., European countries, but more the region which will be under threat.

That's why, for example, back in 1991 -- and I said this at my speech at the General Assembly this week -- the U.N. passed a resolution, Resolution 687, for a Middle East which is free of nuclear weapons, which foresaw or envisioned a very comprehensive idea of having no nuclear weapons in the region, with many implications and many considerations, including that of the security of Israel. And there are also, of course, Israeli-Palestinian issues which were also part and parcel of the discussions that led to that resolution.

President Obama made an appeal for another NPT meeting in 2012. I think that it's very important that there is energy devoted, continued energy devoted to this issue so that this problem can be resolved.

One has to also in this process, of course, take into consideration Iran's own security perceptions, the way they perceive security in and around itself. So I think there is still room for finding a solution if energy is devoted to this process.

RUBIN: Mr. President, thank you.

And why don't we ask for members -- the gentleman on the -- right there -- yeah. Just state your name, if you would, your affiliation, and a brief question so that we can get as many questions as possible.

QUESTIONER: Yes, sir. My name is --

RUBIN: Please stand up.

QUESTIONER: My name is Khalid Azim. Mr. President, my question is, what's your reaction to the growing Islamic sentiment in Europe and even, to some degree, here in the United States?

RUBIN: And your affiliation?

QUESTIONER: I don't have one.

RUBIN: Good, that's a good thing. (Laughter.) No agenda.

GÜL: Of course, we live in a rather different world today. In the past, in the old world, people of different religions and cultures usually lived where they were born, and they didn't go places. Today, everybody is traveling, everybody is living in different places. As the popular saying goes, the world is a small village, so everyone of different religions and cultures find themselves living with people of different cultures and religions in other places, which leads to this encounter between religions and cultures, which gives rise perhaps to some of these issues, problems and challenges.

But Islam is not foreign to Europe. If you look at history, Islam has been part of Europe for 4(00) or 500 years. It's been there. You can see churches next to mosques. It's not like building a new mosque altogether like here in New York, the discussions of a new mosque. In Europe, it was always there. The mosques were there, the churches were there. And they all lived together, and people lived in tolerance with each other. You had synagogues and churches and mosques sharing the same area.

If you go to Sarajevo, for example, in Bosnia, you will see these places of worship sharing the same space, sharing the same areas, the same wall, being next to each other. In Istanbul, too, that is the case.

I think what gives rise to this discussion today is more politically rooted. That's where the lack of tolerance comes from. And I think that is the danger that is associated with the discussions today.

Now, here in the United States, your country is much more tolerant, has respect for people of different creed, different religions, different dresses and so on, than perhaps the rest of the world. This is how you are known. But nonetheless, there is that discussion here in the United States as well.

And I think, as I said, this is politically driven. And that's where the dangers lie. And that's why we must make sure that we immediately respond to those discussions and try to stop any kind of extreme interpretation over the issues under discussion.

I don't mean to say this should be done only here in the U.S. I mean to say it should be done everywhere in the world -- in the U.S., in Europe, in Islamic countries, all around.

RUBIN: Yes, sir.

QUESTIONER: (Off mike) -- New York University. Mr. President, I think I have attended all your speeches here, which is why I hope our chairman's wish that you will give many more will be fulfilled. (Laughter.)

I want to ask you a question of importance to Turkey, the United States and to world affairs. Given the present mood of the public in Europe, what will be your expectation of Turkey's application for the European Union?

GÜL: Becoming a full member of the European Union, for Turkey, is a strategic vision, a strategic goal. And Turkey's relations with the European Union date back many years. It started in the 1960s before the union became the union. And our formal negotiations for membership, on the other hand, began officially in 2005.

However, before that, 50 years ago, Turkey had already achieved a customs union with the European Union. And so what we're going through now is a negotiations process for membership, which we aim to successfully complete. And that is why we are undertaking reforms in Turkey. And those reforms will continue in the future to complete this process.

Unfortunately on the European side, there is sometimes a political attitude to slow down Turkey's accession process to the EU. And most of this arises from domestic political considerations in the European countries. And I can say very openly and clearly to you here that Europe today lacks a strategic vision, a strategic perspective for what it wants to be 50, 60 years down the road.

I hope that when that changes, when there is a strategic perspective for the EU itself for what it wants to be, then the circumstances to Turkey's accession process to be in the EU will also change, and that process will gain greater momentum. We do not mean to say that we should be offered automatic membership. We are -- we realize that we have to fulfill what is required for full membership. And we continue to do that.

But for the considerations which I have just mentioned, the European Union sometimes prevents or brings about obstacles to us completing this process, because, after all, what we're trying to do is to adapt ourselves to the system and the rules and reGülations that are in the EU. And for the EU itself to come up with obstacles to Turkey's efforts in this regard is in itself a contradiction on the part of the European Union.

RUBIN: The gentleman against the post in the back.

TRANSLATOR: Let me translate first.

RUBIN: Oh, translate. (Laughter.) Not that I understood the Turkish, I just was -- (laughter).

GÜL: (In English.) As if he understands. As if he understands.

RUBIN: No, I wasn't meaning to imply that. (Laughs.)

GÜL: (Through interpreter.) Just to give you an example about relations between Turkey and the European Union, which you will find quite difficult to believe perhaps, there are in accession negotiations with the European Union chapters under which countries negotiate to complete their harmonization with the EU for full membership.

One of those chapters is on energy. And Turkey has not yet been able to begin negotiations on the chapter on energy with the European Union, which is quite interesting because energy is a very important matter. And our country, Turkey, is where you can get the most secure transport of energy, and diversification of supply is very important for Europe, and that also goes through Turkey, because at the moment Europe is quite dependent on Russia, and they need diversification of resources of energy and secure energy supply.

And that comes through Turkey. From where? From the Caucasus, from Central Asia, Kazakh oil flows through Turkey or Iraq, Arab gas, and as things are normalized, Iran, too, gas through Iran could also flow through Turkey.

Turkey also has an energy pipeline connecting it to Greece. And when there was an energy crisis in Europe recently in the winter, Greece didn't have any trouble or problems because energy kept flowing from Turkey to Greece, even at the expense of perhaps having more difficulty in Turkey. That flow of energy was never cut off to Greece.

So this is a very strategic matter. But we still see on the European side some political considerations get in the way of, for example, moving forward with a strategic issue such as energy.

So when I speak to the European leaders and we have this discussion, what I say to them is it's up to them, and they are the ones who have to adopt this vision.

RUBIN: Mr. President, we have a principle at the council of always ending our sessions on time. It is now 11:30. I think most of us could stay here for a long, long time and listen to you.

But we thank you. You were very specific, you were very substantive. You were terrific. (Applause.)

C) COPYRIGHT 2010, FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC., 1000 VERMONT AVE.

NW; 5TH FLOOR; WASHINGTON, DC - 20005, USA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. ANY REPRODUCTION, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION IS EXPRESSLY PROHIBITED.

UNAUTHORIZED REPRODUCTION, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION CONSTITUTES A MISAPPROPRIATION UNDER APPLICABLE UNFAIR COMPETITION LAW, AND FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC. RESERVES THE RIGHT TO PURSUE ALL REMEDIES AVAILABLE TO IT IN RESPECT TO SUCH MISAPPROPRIATION.

FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC. IS A PRIVATE FIRM AND IS NOT AFFILIATED WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. NO COPYRIGHT IS CLAIMED AS TO ANY PART OF THE ORIGINAL WORK PREPARED BY A UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE AS PART OF THAT PERSON'S OFFICIAL DUTIES.

FOR INFORMATION ON SUBSCRIBING TO FNS, PLEASE CALL CARINA NYBERG AT 202-347-1400.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.

More on This Topic

Must Read

In his second term, Obama wants to pull back Americas involvements abroad and secure a domestic legacy. The international community will keep...

Must Read Author: Zbigniew Brzezinski

The challenge that is facing President Obama now is how to regain the ground lost in foreign affairs and shaping U.S. national security policy.