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A Conversation with Ahmet Davutoglu

Speaker: Ahmet Davutoglu, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Turkey
Presider: Marc Grossman, Vice Chairman, The Cohen Group; Public Policy Scholar, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
April 14, 2010
Council on Foreign Relations

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MARC GROSSMAN: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to today's Council on Foreign Relations meeting. There are a couple of rules before I get started that I've already talked to the Minister about and the most important of them is please, please, please turn your cell phones off. And we don't mean just on stun, off, as it interferes with the rest of the electronics. So please turn them off. And I also wanted to just say that this is a meeting that's on the record, and so we will proceed on that basis.

What I'd like to do this evening if it would be acceptable to all of you is to for 15 or 20 minutes here perhaps the Minister and I will just engage in a little bit of conversation. And then I would open after some time to all of you for your questions. Our only rule, as the council says, is that once there's an end to this, which tonight will be at 7:15, we're going to try to meet that so that the Minister can get to his next obligation. Mr. Minister, we welcome you here.

FOREIGN MINISTER AHMET DAVUTOGLU: Thank you.

GROSSMAN: We thank you very much for coming. I think, as you can see by the turnout here tonight this is about the importance of Turkey and a great deal of interest in what you have to say. And so we welcome you and we thank you very much --

DAVUTOGLU: Thank you.

GROSSMAN: -- for taking time to come here to the Council on Foreign Relations. Now, Minister, what I would like to do is use my time, if I could, and really to explore four categories of question. First, I'd like to talk a little bit about U.S./Turkish relations, and then I'd like to talk about Turkey in the region, which I know is of particular importance to you, Turkey and Europe. And then I'd like to explore a little bit, if we could, the domestic kind of foundations of Turkish foreign policy and the domestic influences on Turkish foreign policy. And if that would be acceptable to you, I'd like to start out that way.

DAVUTOGLU: Definitely, definitely.

GROSSMAN: So first, if I could I'd like to just focus in on U.S./Turkish relations. And I'd like to know if we could hear your view on what it is in your opinion that holds the United States and Turkey together today? What's this relationship all about? I mean, when I read about Turkish public opinion and I see this kind of anxiety about the United States and I know here in the United States people have anxiety about Turkey. People are asking sort of what's it all for, and I'd like to know if you might be able to open your remarks with something a little bit about that.

DAVUTOGLU: Thank you. First of all let me express my thanks and gratitude for this excellent organization and kind invitation by the Council on Foreign Relations. It is a great honor for me to meet with you here. About Turkish/American relations, let me give you first an academic answer, then a political one. Last year when President Obama visited us, he used a very interesting concept.

At that time, as an academician then I listened to the speech. What is the difference between strategic partnerships and modeled partnerships? Then I came to the United States at that time. I was chief advisor when President Obama visited us. When I came to the United States, to Washington, in June I was Minister and I gave a speech and I tried to give substance to this concept, how I understand this modeled partnership.

Modeled partnership means it is not an ordinary strategic partnership, something special. Why do we have such special character in our relations? Then we have to identify the uniqueness of the United States and the uniqueness of Turkey and the uniqueness of these relations that it is a model. The uniqueness of the United States in human history is the United States is the first global power in human history which emerged far away from Africa or Asia, which is the main land of human history.

Unlike like Roman Empire, Alexandrian Empire, Ottoman Empire, Chinese Empires or British Colonial Empire, French, they all emerged either in Mediterranean or in Africa or Asia. The United States is the first global power in human history which emerged from this mainland separated by two oceans, Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Then the challenge is how to have -- you can close this gap of geographical discontinuity which makes the United States strategy, American strategy a necessity of having a system of alliance, a strong navy, but to see all the balance of power in this (inaudible). This is the uniqueness of the United States.

What is the uniqueness of Turkey? Turkish uniqueness is just the opposite, the geographical continuity. Not the discontinuity; Turkey is right at the center of Afro-Euro-Asia, having multidimensional characters of geopolitics. Turkey is a European country, an Asian country, a Middle Eastern country, Balkan country, Caucasian country, neighbor to Africa, Black Sea country, Caspian Sea, all these.

So all the main nuances of geopolitics are around Turkey and all these geopolitical challenges are in the agenda of American global strategy. So there is a compatibility between this American geographical discontinuity -- which is an advantage at the same time because America is safe of conventional attacks. Nobody can come here -- there is -- these two oceans at the same time are protecting the American continent.

Now what is the rationale behind this? These two countries, geography and history are compatible. They are -- they are not competitive, and America/United States needs allies in Africa Eurasia, and Turkey needs a cooperation with a global power. This is one additional dimension is that Turkish/American is one of the most institutionalized relations which continued from the Cold War to post-Cold War politics.

So there is a continuation of institutionalization. This creates a real special character for our bilateral relations. This is academic --

GROSSMAN: No, no. (Laughs.)

DAVUTOGLU: No, I maybe come to both classes.

GROSSMAN: I'll give you a chance to give the political answer here I hope.

DAVUTOGLU: (Laughs.)

GROSSMAN: And that is if -- I take the point that you make, which is you have two unique -- two unique cultures and strategies that complement one another. From my perspective in the U.S./Turkish relationship, maybe the next greatest challenge will be Iran. And in a sense, you have the lines that you've just laid out come together in trying to figure out what to do about Iran. And I noticed, for example, when the prime minister was in Iran a few weeks ago and gave an interview to the BBC about his views about the Iranian nuclear program.

DAVUTOGLU: The Iran prime minister was not in Iran a few weeks ago.

GROSSMAN: But he gave a -- I know he gave an interview --

DAVUTOGLU: Yeah, maybe -- maybe interview.

GROSSMAN: -- about the Iranian nuclear program. And I was interested, given the importance of Iran to the U.S./Turkish relationship and how these lines come together what your assessment of the last two days was here in Washington at the nuclear summit, particularly on the issue of Iran. And if you heard anything here that made you sort of clarify or consider the Turkish position?

DAVUTOGLU: Yeah. Let me connect this academic analysis to political environment through -- underlining another point. Last year again before the President Obama's visit I came to Washington as chief advisor to prepare the visit and to consult with our American colleagues. Then when I came back I made a statement. I said Turkish/American relations will be having a golden age in front of us because both in the sense of substance and methodology the policies of the Obama administration and Turkish our armaments policies are identical and same.

Why? Because Turkey wants a multilateral approach. Turkey wants a policy of engagement exactly like President Obama's new approach. Policy of engagement, less confrontation, less tense attitude, especially in the region. When I went to look from a Turkish perspective to Middle East, for example, where Iran is there of course, we have a clearer policy of common security framework in the Middle East, political dialogue, economic interdependency and multicultural -- multisectarian coexistence.

And this substance is compatible with the preferences of Obama administration. So our approaches are similar. In the case of Iran, we know it is an important issue for all of us. Again, we have certain principles there which I want to underline. Our foreign policy is a value-oriented foreign policies, not just interest or short-term interest foreign policy. We identified and we are still underlining three basic principles on the Iranian nuclear program.

The first principle is obtaining nuclear technology for peaceful purposes is a right of all nations. There should not be any limit for peaceful nuclear technology, development of peaceful nuclear technology. What is the limit of this is NPT agreement and IAEA regulations. Everybody must respect these two, and as Turkey we are committed to these international arrangements and regulations. And we expect everybody to commit to this.

But if a country commits to this and implements this, there should not be any limit on obtaining this one. Secondly, Turkey is against nuclear weaponry systems -- wherever they are, for which purpose, any country that has these. There cannot be any legitimacy for this because not our generation but our fathers' generation, mothers' generation, they chose -- they experienced this in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. And we don't want to see such a nuclear arms race in world politics.

And a subprinciple of this is we don't want to have nuclear weapons in our region. The Middle East must be a nuclear-free zone. In the Middle East we have enough reasons for tensions -- competition, multi -- the characters, all this. There should not be any other reason. And we made this very clearly to our neighbor Iran and the Iranian administration that Turkey is against any nuclear weaponry system.

Third principle is if there is a dispute the correct way -- the best -- the most feasible way, at least, to resolve this conflict is diplomatic negotiation. Diplomacy, diplomacy, diplomacy, more efficient diplomacy. Not military tension, not economic sanctions, which will affect Turkey as a neighboring country. We had an experience in the past with Iraq -- you know very well, you were in those days in Turkey -- who suffered most because of this military tension or economic sanctions in Europe? Turkey, because of being a neighbor.

Now, in the region we want to have a new era, a new era of stability, peace and prosperity. Therefore we are giving the correct messages to Iranian neighbors, and Turkish/Iranian relations is special in the sense that for almost 350 years we have the same borders. These are two strong state traditions in our region and in Iran, as you know Mark, one third of the Iranian population speaks Turkish. And Tehran is the second-biggest Turkish speaking country after Istanbul. It's the city, of course. Sorry. We don't think -- (inaudible, laughter.) City, of course.

So there is a close cultural geographical link. Therefore we want to have a solution through diplomacy, but we will never tolerate the development of nuclear weapons in our next door. These are the basic principles that we are doing, and based on these principles in the last six, seven months after September I can say Iranian nuclear program has been at the top of our agenda. I visited several times Tehran. We tried -- the first visit -- my first visit was on the 13th of September, and I was the first minister visiting Iran after the formation of the new government.

The purpose of visit was to convince the Iranian administration to start the new -- meet -- negotiations with Solana. And during my visit, after our diplomatic initiative, they agreed to hold a meeting in Genoa on the 1st of October. From Tehran I called Mr. Solana that now Iranians are ready to make this meeting so that he should call. And in two days we fixed the date and venue for that meeting.

And 1st of October meeting was one of the most successful meetings between Iran and P-5 plus 1. And this TRR exchange was proposed there by the Iranian side. It created a positive momentum, but afterwards -- I don't want to go into details here, there was a -- there was a mutual mistrust how to make this exchange possible, where and when?

Because of this mutual absence of confidence, Iran wants to make the exchange in Tehran, P-5 plus 1 wants to get Iranian LEU out of Iran first, then do the -- process it and give it back. (Inaudible) made a creative proposal. If both sides do not trust each other -- Iranian doesn't want to give LEU, the P-5 plus 1 doesn't want to keep it in Iran -- there was -- the proposal was that this should be delivered to Turkey as a deposit, stay in Turkey, and then after preparations we can make the exchange. That's -- therefore, we became -- we haven't made anything on this deal for last four or five months.

GROSSMAN: Well, I think it's really important. It's important first for the United States and then, obviously, in your connection to the Security Council.

One of the things I'd like -- one of the other questions I'd like to ask, which bridges between U.S.-Turkish relations and obviously relations in the region, and I think has a lot to do with your point on less confrontation, more engagement, is relationships with Armenia. I mean, obviously, that's a very important point for you and the United States, for the American Congress.

But I'd be interested, sir, in how you believe this affects the U.S.-Turkish relationship -- the U.S.-Turkish relationship, first of all, and then if you could give us any insight into the status of the Turkish-Armenian relationship, because it seems to me how things go in the United States are very intimately related by progress that you are making between Turkey and Armenia in opening the land border, for example.

DAVUTOGLU: First of all, of course, we don't see any logic why Armenian issue should be an issue between Turkey and the United States. And Turkey and Armenia are two neighbors, and Turkish and Armenian nations live together for centuries. We can speak each other. If we disagree, we can speak. We can have dialogue. But we don't think that it should be an element of Turkish-American relations.

But, unfortunately, we observe in last one month it's -- it is -- it has affected such negatively that almost one month there was no political consultations between two strategic allies despite of -- there are many issues to be -- which we need to consult with each other.

About the Turkish-Armenian relation, again, we have -- we developed a principle. In 2003, we declared zero problems with our neighbors, and we made a huge progress in that sense with all the neighbors. Recently -- I can give you a very good example -- last week, acting minister of foreign affairs of Greece was in Turkey as my guest, and we decided to establish high-level strategic council meeting between Turkey and Greece, which means joint cabinet meeting, and our prime minister will visit Athens next month with 10 ministers, and we will have a joint cabinet meeting. It was impossible to imagine 10 years ago that Turkey and Greece would have such a close relation.

GROSSMAN: Can you imagine that with Armenia some day?

DAVUTOGLU: Yes. Therefore, I am giving this example. Why not with Armenia?

In 2003, we started a new policy. We opened airspace. When we became government -- as a (party ?) government, there was no air connection, air transport between Yerevan and Istanbul. First, we opened that air transport. We opened airspace. Without asking anything from Armenia, unilaterally we made many gestures.

In 2005, Prime Minister Erdogan wrote a letter to President Kocharyan after a decision of our parliament that two nations should start a new reconciliation through a new tool, establishing a joint historical commission to discuss everything. Unfortunately, we didn't receive a positive reply, neither a negative reply, but after a while, through the good office of Switzerland, we started to have this confidential process, and at the end of this process, we were able to first initial, then sign these protocols.

Our vision is clear. We want to implement zero problem policy with Armenia. Like even with Greece previous, we had problems, but we did everything in 2004. Turkish side said yes for a peace. With Armenia, so we want to resolve this issue. We want to -- we don't want a poor neighbor next door to us and -- which is a source of instability. We want a prosperous Armenia. We want all our neighbors to be prosperous and peaceful with us.

When we signed this agreement, that was our vision, not only between two nation states. We want to have -- the second object -- it was we want to have a reconciliation, a new era between two new nations -- not states, two nations -- Turkish and Armenian nations, wherever they are, in Los Angeles, in Paris, in other countries so that they can sit and they can share their historical background. We are ready to listen our Armenian friends, neighbors about our history.

I used a concept in Zurich during the signature settlement. Unfortunately, we were -- I was not able to deliver that speech because Armenian colleague, my dear friend Nalbandyan, didn't want -- I mean, (Mitchell's (ph) speeches.) It is okay. But I used a concept, just memory. Everybody must -- everybody has his own memory, but nobody should impose his memory as a -- one-sided memory on the other side.

1915 for Armenians -- maybe that Armenian issue, but for us, it means Gallipoli. For us, it means around 2 million Turks had to migrate -- forced to migrate from Balkans, from Caucasia in three, four years. So it was a tragedy of the collapse of Ottoman Empire, and we are ready to share this. But we are not ready and they we never accept politicization of history through the parliaments when some -- I mean, 23 once (vote ?) and say yes, 22 no.

Assume that one was on this side. Would that mean that history had another destiny or another interpretation? This is -- this is not logical. This is not ethical and intellectual. Now, this was the second reason.

The third reason was we want to have a new Caucasia based on the same principle which I underlined for Middle East, a Caucasia that we have a common security framework, respect to territories, economic interdependency, which means we will open the borders, of course, with -- but we want also as the Armenian borders to be open that there should be a new era of economic interdependency in Caucasia, multicultural coexistence and political dialogue. That's what we want to achieve.

So it is not just one step. It is a vision which we have to walk together with our Armenian neighbors, colleagues hand in hand for this vision.

GROSSMAN: I think another place where -- in the region where that also is true, where you want to have a successful neighbor, is Iraq, and many of those same principles apply. And I wondered, Minister, whether you want give us the benefit of your view of what happened in the Iraqi election, what comes next, because in a sense, I can't think of a country that would be more benefited from a successful Iraq than would -- than Turkey, and whether you think kind of specifically whether there's a possibility to continue the effort, especially in the North, with the Kurds to defeat the PKK so that that relationship also becomes more successful both for Iraqis and for Turkey.

DAVUTOGLU: Yeah, that's -- this principle really is applicable and should be applied to Iraq. Iraq for us is very important neighbor, and Iraq is a country of -- like a mini model of the Middle East. In post-Cold War era, three countries faced big challenges, and there were interventions or domestic problems. One was Yugoslavia; the second one was Iraq; the third one, Afghanistan.

The common characters of these three countries are oldest three countries historically were buffer zones, geopolitical buffer zones. They were -- they are economy transaction, and, more important, they are mini models of the respective regions. Yugoslavia was a mini model of Balkans. We had all ethnicities of Balkans religious groups in Yugoslavia; similar, Afghanistan of Central Asia and Indian subcontinent; and Iraq is a mini model of Middle East. You have all the groups -- Arabs, Kurds, Turkomans, Shi'ites, Sudanese, (Assyrians ?), Chaldeans, Christians. They are all living together.

Therefore, we have to manage this properly. And the recent elections in Iraq was a success from our perspective. That's -- and we have to congratulate Iraqi people because of their participation to elections. And it gives -- there are two lessons to all the sides of Iraq

As Turkey, we want to have an Iraqi politics, not sectarian- or ethnic-based, more political -- based on political different alternatives or preferences, but the results in success of Raqia (ph) -- a mixed political coalition of Shi'ites and Sunni Arabs and other Turkoman, Christians, were there -- show that what Iraq needs today is a more cosmopolitan politics, let me say.

But, at the same time, it was a signal to Shi'ite parties as well that there cannot be a purely Shi'ite-dominated Iraqi politics. It was a message to Sunnis that they can be successful in politics only if they cooperate with Shi'ites. And there was a message to Kurdish parties that they should be less ambitious in the sense of their relations with other parties. For example, in Kirkuk, it was 6 to 6, or in Mosul and the other.

So, now, everybody should get this in a positive way. We have excellent relations with all these groups, with all these parties. Recently, before coming here Saturday, I received three groups from Iraq -- (Sadrist ?) -- groups, Osama (ph) -- (inaudible) -- from Hudba (ph), and also from Raqia (ph) is Desabi (ph), and before that, Nechirvan Barzani came to Turkey. We are consulting with all the parties, and when I go back to Turkey, same evening on Sunday, I will be -- we will be hosting -- (inaudible) and other groups.

Our advice to all these groups are there should be a new Iraqi politics because this new parliament and this new government will be the constructive -- the main construction of Iraq will be done with -- by these parliaments. So a mutual trust, a new approach of coalitions will be very helpful. I am optimistic. And we are working very hard with Iraqi leaders, with Prime Minister Maliki, all the leaders, so that there will be a good atmosphere in Iraq.

Just a last note, I am sure you follow, in October, Turkish -- our prime minister plus 10 ministers from Turkey, half of the cabinets -- we went to -- (inaudible) -- which was a political risk, because some said how can you take all these ministers, half of the Cabinet, in such a security risk because there were several bombardments in those days, and we signed 48 agreements in one day between Turkey and Iraq. We want to have full integration between -- economic integration between Turkey and Iraq and in Turkey and all other neighbors so that this economic interdependency will create an atmosphere of peace.

GROSSMAN: Thank you very much.

I don't want to dominate this. I want to make sure, though, that as we go forward here in the questions, I hope we can take up the questions of Turkey-Israel relations, Turkey's relations with the European Union, and very importantly, Minister, I hope also you can find a way to talk a little bit about the domestic scene in Turkey. I know one of the things that a number of people asked me as I came in was could -- you know, can anybody explain Ergenekon to me -- (laughter) -- and I think that would be a very useful and good thing.

But let me just sort of open up the questioning here. Yes? Please? Here. This gentleman here. Go ahead. If you'd -- oh, Tom Miller (sp). If you'd stand up and introduce yourself and then keep your questions short, I'd appreciate it.

QUESTIONER: You just introduced me. Tom Miller (sp).

GROSSMAN: That's right. I've never seen you so dressed up.

QUESTIONER: Well, you know, I did it for you, Mark.

Mr. Minister, in a few days, there's going to be elections in Northern Cyprus, and you did -- I was kind of waiting for you not to say anything about Cyprus, but you did, and I'd like to just get your thoughts on -- it's now 35 years -- your thoughts on the future -- I'm not asking you to predict the elections, unless you want to, but more --

DAVUTOGLU: I don't want to.

QUESTIONER: -- more broadly, your thoughts on the future on finding the result in the Cyprus problem.

GROSSMAN: Thank you.

Sir.

DAVUTOGLU: Thank you for this question.

You know, in Cyprus, we had a vision and we still have a vision of a comprehensive settlement, and in 2004, I am sure you remember with the initiative of Prime Minister Erdogan asking Kofi Annan, at that time U.N. Secretary-General, to start a new process in January in -- (inaudible). Then we had very intensive negotiations in Burgenstock in Switzerland. I was there in Turkish delegation, and it was a real success story, maybe first time a frozen conflict would have been resolved through negotiations and through U.N. mediation. It would have been a great success for U.N. system. That's what happened the first time. A referendum was held.

But what happened, after this intensive talks, we agreed on a plan, all the four parties -- Turkey, Greece, Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots -- and we went back home assuming that all of us will tell to our people that they should support this peace. Turkey side did so. President, at that time he was not president, but Talat was there as the negotiator. He went back, he said, please, yes. Say yes. Turkey supported yes, but suddenly late, Papadapoulos, although he agreed the plan in Switzerland, when he went back, he said -- he campaigned for no.

At the end of these campaign, Turkish Cypriot side said yes with 65 percent, Greek Cypriot side said no with 75 percent. It was a failure of the peace effort. As I said, if that was successful, it would have been an excellent example for other frozen conflicts, as you said, 35 years, for other frozen conflicts that U.N. can mediate, produce an alternative and create a peace.

Whom should you blame for this? Those who said yes or those who said no? Normal human logic states those who said yes should be awarded, those who said no should be punished. What happened? Those who said no became member of EU, European Union, and those who said yes continued to be isolated. In the last six years, there was no single promise fulfilled which was given to Turkish Cypriots was fulfilled by EU or U.S. or International Community or U.N. It is an unjust.

Believe me, I am not saying this as a minister, as somebody who worked in many mediation efforts, like Syria now, we are working Serbia, Bosnia. I feel so upset and feel so unjust because of this attitude by International Committee to us Turkish Cypriots. In the last two years, again, when Christofias became president, we became very optimistic, very hopeful, and we encouraged Talat for a new initiative and they met more than 60 times. But unfortunately, the Greek Cypriot side always said no timeline, no UN intervention. No. Just we can sit and talk, open-ended talks. Despite of this, in January, the Turkish Cypriot side made a new proposal and accepted closed voting, which was the main request of Greek Cypriot side. But still, there was no breakthrough.

In spite of that, we will continue to work very hard to encourage the Turkish Cypriot side for a comprehensive settlement. But as it has been said, we cannot do tango one side. We have to have a real counterpart to have a peace. But there is no incentive from the Greek Cypriot side because they don't need the peace. They are comfortable. Because they are sure that they will be behave favorably by International Committee, again and again.

Again and again, they will be said, okay, even if you say no, no problem. You will be our respected counterpart. There is no incentive. Therefore, these elections are important. I will not make any, of course, as you said, assessment of the elections because Turkish Cypriots have a strong democratic tradition. They had many elections in the past. They will show they are a democratic maturity in these elections, and we hope that it will be strengthening democracy in northern Cyprus.

GROSSMAN: Thank you very much.

Yes, Steve.

QUESTIONER: Steve Solarz.

Mr. Minister, you've made it fairly clear that you would prefer to see a negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear issue. Of course, there have been many efforts to resolve the problem through negotiations, which so far haven't produced a positive result. And my impression is that it's now the view of President Obama and his administration, as well as others, that the best way of getting a negotiated solution is to increase the economic pressure on Iran. If the five permanent members of the Security Council, over the next several weeks, can actually agree on a sanctions resolution, how is Turkey, as a member of the Security Council, likely to vote on such a resolution?

DAVUTOGLU: First of all, I still believe that there is a possible diplomatic solution. Because, I cannot give the details, but I know where we are, about TRR especially, -- (inaudible) -- and in the last four months, we made significant progress in those negotiations. We think that there is a chance, but -- and even President Obama several times repeated that despite of -- despite, they are working for sanctions, still the door is open for diplomacy.

For us, that door should be kept open and we want to enter, use that door, because Turkey is not an ordinary country. Turkey is the only neighboring country of Iraq -- of Iran in United Nations Security Council. I don't want to give you any name of any country, but a country far away, thousands of miles away from Iran, can easily decide for a sanction. I don't mean, United States. Please, don't misunderstand me. An anonymous country. But Turkey, as a neighboring country, having so many interests as well as so many connections, it is, we have serious concerns about this.

For example, on the energy issue, Iran is our second source of natural gas, and our economy is growing. And in almost all cities, we are using natural gas. And everybody is looking now for their own initial interest for the diversification of the energy supply. We have excellent relations with Russia, but we don't want to be depending only on Russia. We want to have an alternative energy source for natural gas. This is a very legitimate reason.

And Iran is the only way for us to reach to Central Asia, in which we have historic, strategic relations. There are many issues we have to have, we have to think twice, three times, regarding Iran. Second, therefore, we will continue to work on diplomacy. Because it is not trying to defend Iran. It is our national interest. We don't want to see new confrontations, new sanctions, new polarizations, new military threats in our region. Neither to Iran nor from Iran to other states.

We want to have a new Middle East. We want to have a new Caucasia, Central Asia. And Iran is right at the center of Caucasia, Central Asia and Middle East. So Iranian politics will affect all these three regions, which we have strategic interests. Secondly, we don't know what is the package of sanctions. We are a member of United Nations Security Council. Until now, we didn't get any briefing. We were not consulted, and we don't know what is the package. And now you are asking a question on a package which I don't know the substance. How can I say now about, with all these concerns, plus we don't have any idea about these sanctions.

Maybe the P5, they are consulting among themselves. Of course, we are not against this, but we don't know the content. When there was sanctions against Iraq, we had this experience before. Therefore, the Turkish people, because of our situation, our memory is strong. In that, before the sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s, Iraq was the main trade partner of Turkey. After the sanctions, Turkish-Iraqi trade was zero dollars. Who compensated this? We had to face many economy crisis in the 1990s because of the decrease, not only inside Turkey, but especially in southeastern Turkey, which economy was linked to the Iraqi economics.

And because of that economic deterioration, there was a proper ground for terrorist activities. We don't want to see these around us. Of course, we don't want Iran to be a nuclear, having nuclear weapons. Now these two objectives should be achieved together. At that time, we were not U.N. Security Council member. We were just ordinary neighbor of Iraq but we were consulted about these sanctions. Until now, I am saying, we didn't have any idea what are the sanctions, just an idea, a general idea that there should be new sanctions. Now how can you expect me to say yes or not to what, about something which I don't know.

GROSSMAN: Thank you very much.

Steve Larrabee.

QUESTIONER: Steve Larrabee, Rand Corporation.

In your opening remarks, you laid out a vision for Turkish-Armenian reconciliation. But it's hard, it seems to me, to see how you're going to get there, given the fact that you have linked further progress in the reconciliation and normalization of relations with progress on resolving or settling Nagorno Karabakh.

The Armenians have said, your counterpart has said, that they will not ratify the protocols unless the protocols are ratified first by your parliament, which does not look likely to be the case in the near future. Can you now spell out how you see this going forward, which, because it seems to be at a stalemate, if not ready, on the verge of collapse.

DAVUTOGLU: I am, by nature, I am an optimistic person because somebody told me once, a journalist, when I speak with you that you are always optimistic. How can you be so in that difficult political issues? She asked this. I said, if you don't believe something yourself, you cannot convince others to believe. I strongly believe that this normalization will be achieved. And when, or why I am optimistic in this type of process is, if you take a picture of today, you may see only the difficulties.

Or in another day, like the 11th of October, when we signed, you can see always only the positive sides, maybe. But instead of analyzing the picture itself, you have to analyze the process. I know from where we came to this point. If you compare today with three years ago, when there was no dialogue between Armenia and Turkey, if you compare today with last year today, when there was even no initial (document ?) between Turkey and Armenia, today we made a huge progress. Of course, from the first day of our negotiations, we were knowing as Turks, Armenian colleagues and friends, they were knowing as Armenians that there would be many difficulties in front of us.

It depends on your political will and vision, whether you will overcome these difficulties and try to achieve the goal. We will continue.

Before coming to Washington, prime minister sent a special envoy, our undersecretary to Yerevan, carrying a message. In fact, this message was supposed to rescind their early -- (inaudible). Before, when the committee decision was taken here in the Congress, we had to postpone this. And that message was sent. The message was clear.

We are respecting the basic value, pacta sunt servanda. We are committed to this normalization and we will do it. But at the same time, together with Armenia, we have to prepare the political atmosphere, the political psychology, let me say, in both of the countries in order to get yes from our parliaments, both in Yerevan and in Ankara. And in our parliament, in order to get yes, we cannot afford negative results. We have to prepare the grounds, patiently and in coordination with our Armenian colleagues. If we prepare this, the Nagorno Karabakh issue, as the Armenian dispute, of course, that will help, the resolution of that conflict will help to our process.

We are not establishing like a prep condition. No. But we know in Caucasia, the Middle East and the Balkans, all these issues are interrelated, this way or the other way. If there is a positive momentum, both, all these processes are being affected positively. If there is a negative momentum, then there will be a domino effect, which will make everything negative. Now we are working for the positive result and I am optimistic. We will achieve this. You will see.

GROSSMAN: We've got about eight minutes left, and my proposition here is to take three or four questions --

DAVUTOGLU: Together and then I will be, okay.

GROSSMAN: Together if you can be, make them short.

DAVUTOGLU: I will do that.

GROSSMAN: Yes, sir in the back.

QUESTIONER: (Inaudible) -- welcome to Washington. You have many friends here. Of those of us who are great admirers of Turkey, we're very curious about what is happening internally. The chairman mentioned this. We're hearing stories about arrests, long-term withholding people in prisons without any trial. This is so different from what we have come to think of Turkey that there's -- my Turkish friends are very upset and very worried about what is happening inside Turkey, and for us Arkadaslar of Turkey, we are worried, so please --

(Cross talk.)

QUESTIONER: Ari Burke here. Mr. Minister, when you talked about Iran and the Middle East, you said you wanted a nuclear -- (inaudible) -- and your prime minister, every time the issue of Iran is raised it brings up (Israeli nuclear weapons ?) and points to that as being the cause. What I'm curious here is two things. One, Turkey is a nuclear power. You have 19 nuclear weapons, Cold War weapons.

QUESTIONER: We can't hear him.

GROSSMAN: Oh, we're going to switch mikes.

QUESTIONER: Let me repeat that. Look, Turkey has 19 nuclear weapons, all tactical weapons left over from the Cold War, which are, from what I understand, quite useless. Does this mean you're going to get rid of them?

And two, when you bring up the question of Israel, why don't you ever bring up the issue of Pakistan, which is actually a neighbor of Iran, has an overt nuclear program but Pakistan is not a member of the NPT.

GROSSMAN: Okay, one here and then Carol (inaudible). Yes, sir.

QUESTIONER: My name is Ralston Deffenbaugh. I'm interested in the situation of the ecumenical patriarchate in Turkey and what are the politics of hosting the ecumenical patriarch, and would it be possible in future to allow a new patriarch not to have to be a Turkish citizen?

GROSSMAN: Thank you. Carol.

QUESTIONER: Thank you. Turkish-Israeli relations have had a bumpy road lately. I wonder if you would give us your idea of the outlook and the prospects for those bilateral ties?

GROSSMAN: Okay, answer all those questions.

DAVUTOGLU: Thank you. Maybe the domestic issue I will answer at the last so that the other questions are interlinked. About first the nuclear issue: these are the principles which I mentioned and we will follow. We are in favor of nuclear disarmament. In fact, everybody is in favor of peace. President Obama also issued - that's part of the reason why we had this summit, so if there is such an international commitment, of course, the nuclear issues in Turkey have to be resolved in that package.

It is part of that issue, but the difference between Israel, Iran and Turkey is we are partner or part of NPT. We are loyal to NPT and it is not -- the nuclear capacity you mentioned is not our national capacity. It is -- we don't have any nuclear warhead or anything, any nuclear weapon or system in national capacity. We don't have such a thing.

We are subject to NPT and we want all the countries subject to NPT. If NPT is important for the future of humanity, there should not be an exclusion. Both Iran -- I mentioned this -- and Iran must restrict their -- they are member of IAEA, they are party of NPT. Israel is not member of -- is member of IAEA but not part of NPT. We hope that there will be a common criteria in our region and hopefully in the world that everybody will respect the same principles, based on the same framework. Turkey doesn't have any ambition for having nuclear weaponry system.

And we hope that there will be nuclear disarmament and we will achieve this together. It is a more global issue in that sense. Pakistan, that is an issue of subcontinent. Nobody thinks that there is an arms race between Pakistan and Iran on nuclear issue. It is more Pakistan-India balance of power. We implement the same principles there.

Why we don't include Pakistan? Because it is not considered as competition between Iran and Pakistan, but usual contrast in the Middle East is Iran and Israel, not Iran and Pakistan. But we hope that Pakistan and India, they will have the same principles to be implemented there. We don't have any exception here. The principles should be applicable to all.

About our relations with Israel, first of all, in general, one of the historical issues in history is Turkish-Jewish relations -- (inaudible) -- two nations. And through all of history we had excellent relations with Jews, and Turkey has been always a safe haven for Jews whenever they faced problems in Europe or other parts of the world. Still, this is for us an humanitarian issue. We are against anti-Semitism. Wherever it is, we are against it.

Our relations with Israel has been a good relation throughout the decades. Why and how it has, unfortunately, deteriorated in just one year is clear. In 2008, Turkey was the most reliable state for Israeli government so that Israeli government, they agreed that Turkey should be the mediator between Israel and Syria. Personally, I was the person who ran those mediations between two sides.

Several times I went to Israel with a confidential mission, to Syria, in order to achieve a peace, and here I am really admiring the attitude of Israeli delegations in those day who worked with us during negotiations and Prime Minister Olmert with full vision to achieve that peace and Syrian colleagues who worked with us. They did an excellent, proficient, ethical work together with us.

So in 2008, our relation was very good, so good that they trust Turkey as mediator. What happened -- and today we have problems because when we were almost completing indirect talks between Israel and Syria and when we were preparing to start direct talks on Monday after two days, Saturday there was an attack against Gaza. An attack which created -- almost 1,500 people were killed, 5,000 people were injured and this was a disaster.

It was a disrespect to Turkey, as well. When we were working for that and in principle - before these negotiations we agreed with Syria and Israel that during those negotiations, Lebanon and Gaza must be quiet. So it was not only a humanitarian issue, but it was Prime Minister Olmert was in Ankara four days before the attack, suddenly this --

That was the beginning of a problem.

And several times we tried to send a message to the Israeli side that they should come back to the negotiating process and the humanitarian situation in Gaza should be improved. Today still we have a humanitarian disaster in Gaza. Thousands of people do not have any shelter for one year and not only Israel, all international communities have ethical responsibilities on this issue.

We have to work for that. Gaza today is physically a ghetto. In our region, we don't want such a humanitarian tragedy. If Israel changes the policy in positive way, starting responding to Obama administration for peace negotiations, responding to the call of international community that negotiations with Palestinians should start, settlements should be frozen, there should not be provocations in Jerusalem to the holy places of Muslims, there will be no problem between Turkey and Israel.

Tomorrow we can restart talks between Israel and Syria and everything will be much better than before. But nobody should think that our policy is against the people of Israel or against all the governments of Israel.

It was particularly against a policy of the Israeli government at that time attacking against Gaza and afterwards continuing the policy by the new government, a policy of not responding to the calls for diplomacy and peace process. But we hope that these processes will start soon and our relations with Israel will be improved as well.

About the patriarchy, as an intellectual, as a human being, as somebody who knows history, for me, respect to religious institutions and respect to the right of belief is one of the basic, basic values of humanity and of Turkey. Therefore, it is our obligation to have religious freedom. And we will work to improve the situation in all of this. Not only for the Greek Orthodox, for other religious groups as well.

But patriarchy, according to the international law, according to the agreement between Turkey and Greece, patriarchy became a Turkish institution according to laws and agreements. This is the agreement what we have, and Turkish -- the patriarch should be -- like other religions, not only for Christians, at that time even today for Muslim majority, as well, there cannot be such ecumenical type of independent organization. It is part of the national institutions.

When there was an issue of having a patriarch from outside, Turkey automatically gave citizenship to that patriarch. In the past that was the application and recently in the -- (inaudible) -- Synod assembly, there were certain candidates who were not members of -- citizens of Turkey, we allowed them to vote, and now we are planning to give them Turkish citizenship if they want -- some members of -- (inaudible) -- Synod to come and work in patriarchate. This is basically what we are working for and we with respect to all these religious institutions because they are our institutions, as well as Turkey.

The last question, which is domestic. First of all, about the recent developments regarding constitutional reform, Turkey has a strong and deep history of constitution, starting from 1876. We have several constitutional eras, let me say; 1921, 1924, 1969 to '92 and now. From our perspective, the existing constitution, which was adapted after military intervention in 1918, does not reflect or respond to the needs of Turkish society and modern standards of human rights and democracy.

We want to have constitutional reform in order to achieve a new constitutional framework based on the basic values and to extend the zone of democratic freedom and human rights. In this reform package you have some reforms on labor unions, on many other issues, all of them have main intention, the main objective that the zone of freedom and human rights should be strengthened.

If you ask my opinion, in fact, we need a new constitution based on universal standards, based on true civilian foundation, so this is the main agenda today, and we hope that through these reforms Turkey will have a much higher level of democratic standards and the constitution as a reference point of all political events reflected in Turkish society.

About the case you said, I don't know. All these cases are legal cases. There is no involvement from government. In Turkey prosecutors are independent, court system is independent, and all these things are going through objective standards and criteria of a judicial process. Even if government wants, government cannot make an influence on this.

But we will make, I mean, all the efforts that this process will go smoothly as a court case, as you said, that our (persons ?) were not on trial. They are on trial, but it is not my responsibility or privilege to make any comment on judicial process.

GROSSMAN: Well, you've given us some extra time.

DAVUTOGLU: I hope I didn't forget anything. I hope my memory was good.

GROSSMAN: We've already taken a little bit extra of your time. I just wanted to do two things, which is to just recognize the two ambassadors, Ambassador Jeffrey and Ambassador Tong (ph). Thank you very much for joining us tonight and I hope you all would ---

DAVUTOGLU: Ambassador Wilson.

(Cross talk.)

GROSSMAN: The former ambassadors are just everywhere. (Laughter.) We always try to recognize those with whom we served, and I hope you would just join me in thanking Foreign Minister Davutoglu for (applause) and for his answers.

DAVUTOGLU: Thank you.

GROSSMAN: Thank you very much.

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