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"Fractured Alliance? The Future of U.S.-Turkey Relations" [Transcript; Federal News Service, Inc.]

Speakers: Steven A. Cook, Douglas Dillon Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations, and Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Alliance Relations, Council on Foreign Relations coauthors of CFR Special Report: “Generating Momentum for a New Era in U.S.-Turkey Relations”
Presider: Marc Grossman, Vice Chairman, the Cohen Group, and Former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey
June 22, 2006
Council on Foreign Relations New York, NY



MARC GROSSMAN:  (Fed in progress)—My name is Marc Grossman, and I’m a brand new Council member, so I’m not sure how I find myself in this position, but I welcome you here for this roll-out and presentation of a wonderful report called “Generating Momentum on a New Era in U.S.-Turkey Relations.” There are a couple of rules that I’d like to tell you about before we start.  We ask you to please turn off cell phones, blackberries and other wireless devices.  I also let you know that Council members from all around the country are participating with us via a secure, password-protected teleconference, and I welcome them.  And this is also an important note, which is that unlike some Council meetings, this meeting is absolutely on the record, and so we’re glad to do that today.

My plan is, if it’s acceptable to all of you, is to first of all, as I said, to welcome you, and then I’d like to make a couple of overall comments about the report, if that would be acceptable, and then we’ll spend the first half hour, from 12:30 to 1:00, just having a conversation among the three of us, and it’s my job to try to draw out the authors a little bit on some of the things they were most interested in, in the report, and I think also recommendations for the future.  And then we open at 1:00to all of your questions for a half hour, and then at 1:30we intend to be finished as is the Council’s wont.

One thing for sure is that I noticed, I must be retired, because here I am, I’ve never been quite in these comfy chairs, I look forward to this conversation and I really appreciate the opportunity to introduce this report.

I think that you all have seen this title for this report, “Generating Momentum for a New Era in U.S.-Turkish Relations.” I think this is a very good way to put it, because the title implies, as I think as it should imply, that there is a certain momentum which is lacking today, and I appreciate the fact that the Council has focused on Turkey’s importance to the United States, and I hope, for our Turkish guests as well, the United States’ importance to Turkey.

You all will have  a chance to read this I know, but I just highlight for you a very important point on page 24, and I just want to read this quotation for you: “In a healthy relationship”—in other words, in a healthy relationship between Turkey and the United States—“there is some capital in the bank to draw upon; at present, each account has been drained, and there is little cushion on either side, so that any negative incident, however small, takes on larger significance than perhaps is deserved.”  And I think that’s a very important insight and a very good place to start this conversation.

I also think key, for my perspective anyway, as we go forward and have our conversation today, is that as the report says, Turkey ’s success is important to the United States, and I quote, “as it tries to chart an effective course in its relations”—in other words, in America ’s relations—with the Muslim world.

I also think it’s important, from my perspective, that we remember that we’re talking about Turkeyas a secular state and we don’t drift into sort of a conversation that says the reason we want Turkeyto be successful is to be a successful Islamic state.  Because it’s not.  And the key it seems to me forTurkeyand for the United States is to show that it is possible to be secular, and democratic, and Muslim, simultaneously.

When I was reading the report, I had a chance to think back, because there’s a section in there about how Turks responded to the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall, and I remember back that, I happened to be serving in Turkey in 1989, and Ambassador Abramowitz and I we had long lines of Turkish people come in and say “It’s over for us; Turkey isn’t going to be important any more; wall has fallen!” And I can remember Ambassador Abramowitz saying to them, “Well, not so fast.” And as you can see from this  report, if you make a list of Iran, and the Caucuses, Central Asia, Iraq, the quest for membership in the European Union.  All of those things seem to me to have increased Turkey ’s importance since the end of the Cold War and hardly decreased it.

One very important part in the report is a very interesting discussion inside of the converstaion on IraqaboutKirkuk , and I hope we might be able to hear a more about that today.  Section also on Iran, and I think that Iran—could be, could be— the next real place for Turkish American cooperation, I hope we can talk about that, because surely Turkey would be among one of the first countries to be affected if Iran were to succeed in their quest for nuclear weapons.

I also think it’s extremely important for today, and as you all read the report, which is to take the report’s “Agenda for Action.”  And there are a number of places where there are calls for action.  For example, recognizing all of the constraints that the United States ought to be doing more, I believe, against the PKK/KADEK, in northernIraq .  And there are some specific things I think that can be done.  You know, we ought to be looking to arrest Abdullah Ocalan’s brother, for example.  Or when PKK/KADEK holds events in northern Iraq , perhaps they could be stopped in advance, or disrupted if they take place.

I also have to agree very emphatically with the report’s emphasis that the United States needs to keep paying attention to Turkey ’s EU aspirations, and for the European Union to keep focused kind of on its strategic importance as well.

I hope also we can—I can draw our authors out a little bit aboutCyprus .  I see the ambassador of Cyprusis here, and we welcome him very much.  I’ve come to recognize that my own thinking about Cyprusis a little bit stuck and a little bit passive.  And I regret that.  And somehow I think we do need to take into account, as we go forward, the fact that 75 percent of the people in Greek Cyprus voted “no” on the Annan plan.  And how do you make 75 percent come to 49 percent?  Perhaps there’s some question about maybe, you know, more EU in all this, which would take advantage, it seems to me—and I see the ambassador of Greece—of Greece’s commitment to Turkey’s entry into the European Union.

I think the second track of U.S.-Turkish Cooperation Commission is a useful idea, especially the idea that we need a new U.S.-Turkish military relationship, focus on business as well, and we have a number of Turkish and American business people here today.  And we should focus on that.

And finally, that point in the report about the need for more and more and more cultural exchanges, educational exchanges is also surely right because that’s what kind of builds up the capital that, I think, needs to be built up in this relationship.

One last point from me, and that is, that to go forward with cooperation councils and other important institutional operations, I think that’s really important, but without some political will on both sides and politicians at senior levels who are paying attention to this relationship, it’s hard to do.  I’ve been quoted a number of times, and I think it’s right, that although the U.S.-Turkish relationships a really important one, it’s not often the most natural one.  It’s not natural geographically in some ways.  It’s not natural historically in some way.  And so people have got to pay attention to this, because if the Turkish-U.S. relationships don’t get paid attention to, they tend to drift, and if they tend to drift, then we end up, it seems to me, having to write reports about regaining the momentum.

And that’s why I think that the idea that the United States of America andTurkeyhas had, resulting from Dr. Rice’s visit in Turkey , about having a vision statement, about what it is that theUnited States andTurkeyought to be doing together is so important.

So I thank you very much for the opportunity to make those comments, and I congratulate you on the report.  And I take—kind of I take the liberty to begin here and maybe ask a question aboutKirkukand one about Cyprusand see if we can’t get this conversation going.

So if we could start with Kirkuk , I think that’d be great.

STEVEN COOK:  Great.  Why don’t I take that one, Liz, and—but before I start, first, I want to thank you all for coming and joining us here today.  I want to thank Ambassador Grossman for presiding over the meeting today, and I also want to thank my co-author, collaborator and travel partner in this endeavor.  It’s been a wonderful experience, and I’ve learned a tremendous amount by this collaboration.  So thank you.  This is culmination of lots of hard work on the part of both of us, and I appreciate the turnout today.  On the question of Kirkuk , if I might broaden it just to the question of northernIraqand Kurdish issues in general, just to lay out what we’ve said in the report.  Essentially the United States and the government of Turkeyare at loggerheads on this issue.  There are a series of things that the Turks would like the United States to do; for example, take on the PKK directly through military action or provide the Turkish military with actionable intelligence so that it can do so itself.

The second thing the Turkish government would like the United States to do is to essentially push for a change in the Iraqi constitution which calls for a referendum on the disposition of the city ofKirkukin 2007.  They’d like to either delay the referendum or expand the—those participating in the referendum to all of Iraq , so—betting that the Sunni and the Shi’a inIraqwould not want the Kurds to control the oil that’s inKirkukand its environs.

And the third thing is, the United—the Turks would like the United States, essentially, to pressure Kurdish leaders in northern Iraq on the question of Kurdish nationalism and how that ultimately relates to Turkey’s own large Kurdish population, located primarily in the southeast, but throughout the rest of the country.

None of those things is the United States presently, given the current circumstances in Iraq , in a position to do.  It is very unlikely that Central Command will want to send troops up to the north to take on the PKK and destabilize the one relatively stable area of the country.  Secondly, because the Kurds have been supportive of the U.S. mission in Iraq, it’s unlikely that the United States is going to want to put undo pressure on Kurdish leaders either to force a change in the Iraqi constitution, to delay the referendum, or to pressure them in ways that they feel that—that Kurdish leaders themselves feel that they’ve put themselves in a difficult political position vis-a-vis the PKK.

So our answer—well, what we can do about it?  And essentially, we lay out what we think is a process-oriented policy recommendation—which will get all of the parties together in a trilateral dialogue; to open the lines of communication between the United States; the government of Turkey and the government of Iraq and the legitimate representatives of Iraqi Kurds—in order to get everybody’s positions out on the table, and discuss—over a course of time a continuous discussion over what types of solutions can be developed on a variety of questions, but most importantly, on the question of the PKK. 

        These have to do with ideas related to extradition treaty between IraqandTurkey , the possibility of amnesty for some PKK fighters and others.  

But what’s most important is, regardless of what the outcome is in Iraq, this trilateral dialogue between Iraq, Iraqi Kurds, the United States and Turkey will support either success in Iraq, the successful unity of the country, or provide a mechanism for dialogue and coordination should things fail in Iraq.

MR. GROSSMAN:  Steve, I’m interested in that, especially the last part.  I mean, did you get a sense in your travels or as you were talking to Turkish officials that the fact that there is now an Iraqi government with an Iraqi constitution sort of has changed their perception from perhaps a government before that was, you know, put in by the CPA or encouraged by the United States?

MR. COOK:  Well, it’s certainly encouraging that there is an Iraqi  government now after all of this time.  And I think that what the Turks have been consistent on in principle is that this is an issue for which Ankarawants to talk to Baghdadabout.  And I think that’s a principled position and it’s a position that we should support, but in no way, shape or form should we support the freezing out of legitimate representatives of Iraqi Kurds to discuss this issue; because obviously it directly relates to the situation in northern Iraq, and to have just the Iraqi minister of Defense or Interior minister or prime minister without Kurdish representation in those talks is likely not to get us very far.

MR. GROSSMAN:  Thank you very much.

Well, if I could turn to the other hard—another hard question, and that’sCyprus .  As I said, you know, my own views, I think, are a little bit frozen in time.  It was a great disappointment, I think, to many of us in April a couple of years ago when the vote didn’t go “yes” in both places.  But that’s a reality we have to deal with, and I’d be interested kind of in what you learned and how to go forward.

ELIZABETH SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  Let me put the Cyprus problem in a broader context first, if I may, Marc, which is that we emphasize very strongly in the report the imperative for the United States of making it a diplomatic priority with its European allies to ensure that Turkish accession to the EU proceed successfully.  The failure to bring Turkeyinto the EU would have unmeasurable consequences.    And one of the things that we observe in some of the most important European countries today is a lack of commitment to welcoming TurkeyintoEurope , and indeed in some cases on the part of leaders the articulation of positions that suggest that they genuinely do not want to see Turkeyaccede to the EU.  This would be extremely damaging strategically both to the United Sates and Europe .  

And I think what we need to do, therefore, is paint a picture for our European allies of what Europewould look like should Turkeybe pushed off the edge, should Turkeybecome strategically adrift or unmoored.   And this is going to require intensive and high-level diplomacy because it is not a foregone conclusion, despite the opening of the process of negotiation of Turkish accession.

Within that context we then have to consider the Cyprusproblem. And Stephen and I have put forward a set of recommendations that requires American leadership.  And here we believe that theUnited States should not be waiting for the United Nations to take the next step, and that while we need to be working closely with the United Nations and the European Union regarding Cyprus , we should be moving forward to show leadership and indicate that we care about the resolution of this problem.  

And therefore, we’ve proposed the identification of a new special Cyprus coordinator who would lead a concerted American government effort—that position has been empty for a number of years—working with our EU partners to push them to develop a reasonable plan within Europe for using the kind of pressure that now exists, given Cyprus’s membership in the EU, to bring about a positive outcome.

This is going to be hard for the U.S.government to do, and I don’t deny that.  But I think one of the things we wanted to indicate in this report is that there’s an opportunity for Americato lead; and given the stakes involved for us as well as for our principal European partners in Turkish accession and the resolution of the Cyprusproblem, which are now intimately linked, this cannot be ignored.

MR. GROSSMAN:  Fair enough.

One of the things that I think is absolutely true, and I’m sure that a number of colleagues here would agree, is that it was, I think, American diplomatic focus over the past 10 or 15 years which helped bring Turkeyand the European Union together.

The other thing I think in terms of the point that you make on European Union is absolutely right, which is that there is a huge strategic opportunity there for both Turks and Europeans.  And I think sometimes it’s too bad that both Turks and Europeans don’t stop for a minute and recognize the huge amount of progress that’s already been made.  They tend to, obviously, constantly see the negatives and not the positives.    And the other good thing, of course, is that we don’t have to decide this today, that there are some years where I think both European public opinion—I hope—and Turkish public opinion will change as well.

I wanted to ask you kind of two follow-up questions to the very good points that you made.  First, why do you think it would be hard for the United States of America to sort of come back to the Cyprusissue?  

And secondly, I have great, great admiration for what the United Nations did before April a couple of years ago, and I said then and I say now, I think the Annan plan was a very important contribution. But do you think there is more that the European Union can do as an organization to kind of try to bring some of these lines together?

MS. SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  Excellent questions, Marc.   Thank you.

First of all, I think the problem for the U.S.government is in part one of bandwidth.  We have a lot of urgent crises that we are dealing with.  In the newspaper today, whether you’re thinking about IranorNorth Korea, you can imagine that the senior leadership in the position in which you previously served and above that is fully occupied.  And we have got to getIraqright and we’ve got to get Afghanistanright.  And I think requiring that there be more attention paid to more problems that are not literally burning is hard.

        And so, one of the reasons we undertook this study was to try to help think through some problems that we have the luxury in being in a think tank to think through and to make some constructive recommendations and to suggest in this case that the identification of an individual, who would then be given the lead role, could take the burden, in a sense, off of the undersecretary of State and allow that person to go forward and work with the U.N. and work with the EU.  And I hope this will happen, but, as I said, I think they are very busy.

The question of what the EU can do.  I mean, we have a situation in which Cyprushas been admitted to the European Union.  So this is now a family of countries.  And what we are asking is that the EU use its clout and its processes for addressing problems to urge the Cypriots to be good citizens in the EU.  And we need to see that happen.  We need to see other countries who are part of the EU play a very constructive role, and we need to see the EU leadership ask those who are not playing a constructive role, as I said, both in our bilateral diplomacy and also in dealing with the EU leadership, to consider the alternative, to consider the consequences should this process not go positively.  

And here I would just add to your final comment on my introductory remarks.  I actually don’t feel we have time to allow this to languish.  If you look at Turkish public opinion data, there is growing discomfort with the commitment to join the EU because the message coming from so many EU capitals is negative regarding Turkey . Meanwhile, Turkeyis undertaking major reforms to accommodate all of the EU requirements.  Many of these reforms are very good for Turkey , but some of them are very hard for Turkey .  And so here, I think we really need to see progress in the next year, not stretched out over 10.  And there was an interesting piece in the Financial Times the day before yesterday which suggested that if you took the time it’s taken to get to the first stage of negotiation of EU accession, it would be 20 years before Turkeyjoins the EU.  That’s not a reasonable length of time to take to get this to happen.

MR. GROSSMAN:  And I’m sure—

MR. COOK:  And just a follow-up on this for just one second on that.  On the question, first ofCyprus , and then second on the question of Turkey ’s EU reforms and why to our minds it’s so urgent, first on the question of Cyprus , there’s another area where I think the United States can demonstrate some leadership, and that is on the bilateral level.  I think that it was—it was a good sign that—   over this question of the first chapter of accession that the rest of the European Union essentially over Cypriot objections went forward with the negotiations.  But the United States I think has an opportunity here to help, while not recognizing northern Cyprus as a separate state, the Turkish—the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus as an independent state, it can do things to help break the Turkish Cypriots out of their international isolation as the United States had promised after 2004, the failure of the Annan plan. And I think that that’s something that the United States should think about very seriously and something that we recommend strongly in the report.

On the—going back to the question of the European Union and reforms, this idea of kind of permanent negotiation, or negotiation over 20 years, it strikes me that as public opinion in favor—in Turkey in favor of European Union membership decreases as a result of the negative kinds of signals that they’re getting from Europe, these extraordinary reforms that have—Turkey has undertaken since 2002 will not really be anchored.  That is where—we’re at a time right now Turkeyis deepening and consolidating its democracy, but by no means are things not reversible.  And there are still elements within Turkeythat are opposed to EU membership and have the means to do things about that.  So that as long as the EU is sending positive signals to Turkey, it’s a better likelihood that these reforms will actually be anchored and institutionalized in the Turkish political system.

MR. GROSSMAN:  I think that’s a very important point.

There is, I think, part of the objective for the administration and for future administrations is, as you said, part of the message here is not just Turkey to keep reform, more democracy, but is also to leaders in Europe that what they say matters in Turkey.  And it also matters inEurope , because one of the reasons I think this may take a little bit of time is that Europeans also need to understand that they now live in a multi-religious, multi-cultural society, and that that’s something important as well.  And if you are, it seems to me, in the government of Franceand you are trying to manage your own relationships inside of your country, well, it’s a positive, it seems to me, to have a country like Turkeydemocratizing, be secular, and then be part of the family.

Let me move to another subject, if I could, and I don’t know which of you to ask, so I’ll just sort of throw it out there, and you can pick it as a jump ball.  And that is that in the cooperation commission I think there’s a very important segment, that there needs to be kind of a reenergized conversation between the two militaries, the United States and the Turkish military— I think that’s absolutely right—and that there needs to be some new conversation. And I wondered if you might spend a minute or two kind of giving that a little bit more substance.  If you were writing the agenda for the first meeting, what would you put on the card?  MR. COOK:  I’ll let a former deputy assistant secretary of Defense take that question.


MS. SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  Thank you, Steven, and thank you, Marc. This is an issue that is extremely important in the U.S.-Turkish relationship.  As a consequence of the run-up to the war in Iraq , the relationship between the United States military and the Turkish military became very strained.  And the theme of the change of command in the organization of the American military results in the separation of areas of responsibility between the European Command along the border between TurkeyandIraq .  So while the European Command has actual responsibility on a day-to-day basis for developing defense and military ties with Turkey , the command of the operation in Iraqis run by the Central Command.

        And although we do have a continuing military-to-military cooperation relationship through the European Command, the issues of most concern to the Turks are managed by the Central Command, and there has been very little cooperation with the Central Command since 2003.

So we have proposed very specifically that there be a reinvigoration of the military-to-military relationship between the Turkish General Staff and the Central Command of the United States. And this is something that would need to be—it would need to involve many aspects, from high-level exchanges, to exercising together, to exchanges of planning and training and doctrine, that is the regular business of our work with allied militaries all around the world.  What is an unfortunate consequence of Iraqis that that kind of work has halted.  And so we are proposing that we do what we do with allies in many countries, we do it bilaterally with the Turks, and we also continue, of course, to do it multilaterally with the Turks through NATO.

MR. GROSSMAN:  Just to press for a minute, I wanted to make clear.  You’re not calling thatTurkeymove to be part of Central Command?

MS. SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  No, I am not, because Turkey is a very important member of NATO, of course, and the structure of the European—the NATO command structure involves Turkey being under the leadership of the Supreme Allied Commander for Europe, Jim Jones, who is extremely dedicated to the development and enhancement, deepening and expansion of the U.S.-Turkish military-to-military cooperation program.  

But what I’m advocating is that there no longer be a disinclination to engage between Central Command the Turkish military; that we really need to take deliberate steps.  And this probably requires civilian direction of the military to get it going again. There’s been a lot of resistance and disappointment on both sides, and this is going to need to be overcome by a recognition that for strategic reasons, we need to begin again with a dialogue about issues of mutual concern.  Of course Turkey has many interests in the region for which the Central Command has responsibility, and we could begin there with that dialogue and then consider concrete steps that can be taken together to advance mutual security interests.

MR. GROSSMAN:  Let me just raise one more question and then we’ll go to the audience, and that is Syria .  In your report you talk a    little bit about Syriaand this—I think the considerable kind of distance between theUnited States government and the Turkish government on what to do about Syria .  And I hope you can sort of talk a little bit more about that and see if—like I suggested that Iran might be a place where there’s possible Turkish-American cooperation, whether you think that’s possible on Syria as well.

MR. COOK:  Sure. 

I think I’ll take that question, Liz.

I think that there is a considerable distance, as you said, between theUnited States andTurkeyonSyria .  As the United States and its principal European allies have sought to isolate Damascus for a variety of reasons—chief among them the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and the suspicions that Syria has either colluded or turned a blind eye to insurgents coming across the Syrian-Iraqi border—we’ve grown increasingly disenchanted with Bashar al-Assad in Damascus.  All the time, however, the Turks have maintained fairly good, close and warm relations withDamascusat the same time.  

Now, the Turks make a very good point, they say look, while you and your principal allies are seeking to isolate Damascus, we can use our good offices to pass messages, and we have talked to the Syrians about what is expected of them—

MR. GROSSMAN:  And do you think that they’re actually doing that?

MR. COOK:  Well, I can only go by what my Turkish interlocutors tell me, and I believe them.  

But what I think is really driving this relationship is really the logic of Kurdish politics.  For many years, quite obviously, the Syrians and the Turks were on opposite ends of this while the Syrians harbored Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the PKK, and the Turks threatened war in 1998 over this issue.  And now, of course, there’s been a switch as a result of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  And the Syrians also have concerns about Kurdish nationals and Kurdish independence in northern Iraq and how that might affect their own Kurdish population. And we have seen activity—nationalist activity on the part of the Kurds in Syriaas well.  So clearly, they have a common sent of concerns about Kurdish nationalism emanating from Operation Iraqi Freedom, and I think that’s what’s driving the close relations between the two countries.  

What can we do about it?  We can continue to—we can continue to express our unhappiness over this relationship.  But at the same time, we also have to recognize that Turkey has its own set of priorities and interests in its neighborhood and has always pursued a foreign policy intended on maintaining peaceful relations with its neighbors, regardless of the character of those neighbors.  And that’s clearly what they’re seeking to do with regard toSyria .  MS. SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  I would just add one point.  I think in general around the world, one of the benefits of having close allies is that they sometimes maintain relationships that we cannot, and those relationships can provide us with insight, advance warning, opportunities for conveying important messages.  

So I—while I recognize that it is necessary that we express our concern, I, at the same time, feel that it is valuable to the United States to have partners who have partners with whom we don’t have the closest of ties.

MR. GROSSMAN:  Well thank you very much.

Well, I think now I’d like—with your permission—to open this up to the larger audience and invite council members to join in the discussion.  I think the way this might work is, is that there are microphones, and we’d like you to stand up and speak into the microphone, and please identify yourselves.  And all questions are welcome.  So, please.


QUESTION:   Yeah, Robert Hutchings, Princeton University, currently at the Woodrow Wilson Center.  I have a question on Turkish EU membership. 

    My conversations with EU officials suggest that, regrettable though it may be, there will be a long lag between serious consideration of Turkish membership.  And the question is how to manage this, in your view, second-best situation, how to avoid some of the most damaging consequences?  I understand this is a question you probably would prefer not to answer because this is not your preferred choice, but I think it is a contingency we ought to think about seriously.


MS. SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  The first step is to strengthen U.S. ties with Turkey.  I mean, this is something that is essential.  It’s why we have taken the time to study and write this report, and we will be now investing a lot of energy in advocating the recommendations that it makes.

Should we have the very negative outcome, that ultimately the accession is very drawn-out and does not result in full Turkish membership, then it’s—anchoring Turkey in the strongest possible bilateral relationship with the United States will be essential.

MR. GROSSMAN:  Would you like to add to that?

MR. COOK:  I think that Liz answered it precisely.  We need to generate this momentum in U.S.-Turkey relations to anchor the relationship, should things not go well for the Turks in the European Union.

MR. GROSSMAN:  I think that’s right.  If I might just sort of play the slightly more naive person here, though—I do think that there is an importance to talking about this positively rather than negatively for the United States, and that is to kind of keep reminding people of the remarkable distance Turkey and the European Union have come over the past 10 or 15 years.  

I mean, if we were all sitting here 10 years ago and someone would have said there was—October 3rd last year and June 12th of this year—and actual negotiations are in, and Cyprus is a member of the European Union and Greece is among the biggest supporters of Turkey continuing on in this stretch, you know, I think it’d have been hard.

And so the question is how to sort of lift people’s vision about this, and, Robert, I think that’s one of the requirements, as the   authors say, of the United States.  The United States’ job here, it seems to me, is to lift up the vision of both Europeans and Turks and remind them of what a strategic imperative this is.

MR. COOK:  I think, Marc, you’re quite right.  I think essentially the changes that Turkey has undergone domestically have surprised the Europeans.  They never expectedTurkeyto undertake seven or eight far-reaching, institutional reform packages that essentially harmonize Turkey ’s political system with those of Western Europe.  And this has taken them by surprise.  So there’s a certain amount of cognitive dissidence in Europe —“Oh, my God, we really actually do need to deal withTurkey .”  I don’t thinkEurope ’s ever believed that they needed to.  And I think that here is a place where the United States can demonstrate leadership and help articulate for the Europeans the consequences of Turkey first getting into the European Union, the enormous positive consequences of Turkey’s accession to the European Union, and the negative consequences of leaving Turkey out and potentially Turkey becoming unmoored strategically.


MS. SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  And one additional point to add here—and I think it is necessary, Professor Hutchings, to repair and revitalize many of our other alliance relationships in order to achieve this goal.  That is, to have the credibility with France and Germany and others to make this case.  There’s a lot of work to be done bilaterally as well.  We could do a report of other—(laughs)—alliance relationships, suggesting the necessity of repair because this is the way that we leverage American power most effectively.  And if we want to have credibility in making the case that France needs to take a strategic view of Turkey, that France needs to think globally as it traditionally has and understand the implications of a Turkey that would not be a member of the EU and anchored in the West, it’s going to require that we have the kind of confidence and traction that we have traditionally had with our European partners but which is presently in short supply.

MR. GROSSMAN:  Yeah.  Take one from this side, if there’s one?

Yes, sir, in the back?

QUESTION:   Guillermo Christensen of Baker Botts.

I wonder if you could talk a little bit about the role you see Israel playing in the Turkey relationship, especially with the United States.

Thank you.

MS. SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  Want to take a crack?

MR. COOK:  Sure, I’ll be happy to take that one.  I think it’s clear that—there’s really two issues here with regard to Israel .

First, let’s review recent history.  TurkeyandIsraelupgraded their relations dramatically in the early ‘90s and then subsequently on the military level in the mid-1990s and enjoyed very close strategic relations.

Over the course of the last couple years or so, there’s been some discord in the relationship that have subsequently been repaired, but discord nonetheless, first over the—Prime Minister Erdogan’s comments about Israel engaging in state-sponsored terrorism after the Israelis took action to raze a large number of homes in the Gaza Strip, and then subsequent reports that the Israeli Mossad was operating in Northern Iraq and providing advice to Kurdish factions that could potentially be helpful to Kurds in any kind of drive for independence.

The Israelis and the Turks have gotten beyond that, and the discord over those two incidents have essentially been repaired and has been—Erdogan visited Jerusalemand invited then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharonto visit Ankara , and they signed a whole series of agreements.

That’s the bilateral Turkey-Israel side, which also has an effect on what goes on here in Washington .  And I think that as long as Turkey—which does not have a large domestic constituency here in the United States—as long as Turkey and Israel maintain close, strategic ties, I think the Turkish government can count—count on the organized pro-Israel community here in the United States to advocate on behalf of Turkey.

That’s why I think—in the report we talk about the meeting between Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul and a number of other Turkish officials at AK Party’s headquarters last February with the leader of Hamas, and we thought that that—while you can appreciate Turkey’s efforts to reach out—and the Turks were very clear in the message that they sent to Hamas—on the optics level of it, it was perhaps a little bit of diplomatic overreaching for the Turks.

    But by and large, I think that this should not be a trilateral relationship.  Washington ’s relations with Ankaraare based on a long history in the past and obviously a set of common interests in the future.  And one of those common interests is the Middle East and Middle East peace, but it is not the kind of thing where good relations between Turkey and Israel are going to be a decisive factor in the relationship between the United States and Turkey, and it should not be.

MR. GROSSMAN:  Bernie Kalb.


MR. GROSSMAN:  There’s a mike right there, sir.

STAFF:  Here you go, sir.

MR. GROSSMAN:  Other side.

QUESTION:   Oh, thank you.  I’m Bernard Kalb.  In your wanderings around Turkey , did you find that Turkey ’s Moslem religion is playing more of a role or less of a role among those who are resisting, among the Europeans,Turkey ’s admission to the EU?  In other words, the delicate question of religion really—which really has not yet been mentioned but we know is so critical—could you deal with that?

MS. SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  We should let our Turkish domestic policy expert speak to this.

MR. COOK:  Sure.  You know, I mentioned before that Turkey has undergone extraordinary kind of institutional legal changes in order to meet the Copenhagen criterion and move forward in its negotiation. 

While those things are going on, Turkey is also undergoing a series of other kinds of changes.  And one of them is in identity. And all of a sudden it seems—I lived inTurkeyin 2000.  I had made many trips previous and subsequently.  And all of a sudden now Turkey is more Turkish, more European and more Islamic all at the same time. And it’s very, very interesting to see, but it is, I think, a positive thing that Turkey, as more European, more nationalist and more Islamic at the same time, is making these tremendous strides towards European Union membership, recognizing that Europe’s future is in a—is a multicultural Europe.    You don’t see—if your question is suggesting some sort of change into kind of Islamic fundamentalism because of the complexion or the—

QUESTION:   (Audio break.)

MR. COOK:  Well, I think that, you know, it’s sort of the unspoken—the proverbial elephant in the living room.

QUESTION:   (Off mike.)

MR. COOK:  Turkey has met all of the legal criteria for undertaking negotiations for European Union membership.  Obviously there continue to be problems on Cyprus.  But really, I think, if you look at what the polling tells us from the way European publics view it, it has everything to do with the religious—

MR. GROSSMAN:  And I think that’s the important point that Steven makes, which is that although we would wish, I think, this to happen fast, I think one of the reasons that it won’t happen so fast is because European publics have to get used to this a little bit as well.  

And it isn’t sometimes so unspoken.  I can remember, you know, a lot of leaders saying, you know,Europe ’s a Christian club, and that’s the deal.  


MR. GROSSMAN:  Well,Europe ’s not a Christian club, and I think the point that you make, which is that over time, Europeans come to the self-realization that they now live in a multi-ethnic, multi- religious society, and that it will be ultimately, I believe, a great advantage to them to be dealing on a sensible basis with Turkey .

MR. COOK:  But you can imagine the dissonance amongst Europeans who, if Turkey were to enter the European Union, one in three—in 10 years, one in three Europeans will be Muslim.  The people whom Germans have watched sweep their streets over the course of the last 15, 20 years will have the most representation in the European Parliament.  

So it is going to take time, but I think it is primarily a religious issue.  



QUESTION:   Steve Solarz.  I agree entirely with your view that it would have extraordinarily negative consequences not only for Turkeybut for the relations between the West and the Muslim world if the EU rejected Turkey ’s application for membership.  But how do—and that we should do everything we can to facilitate Turkey ’s ultimate admission.   But how do you respond to the observation I hear from a number of Europeans that American efforts in support of Turkey’s bid for membership can be and, in some instances, have been counterproductive because a number of European states resent what they see as American interference in what is essentially a European issue?  So how can we be helpful without being counterproductive?

Also, you indicated that in light of the results of the referendum onCyprus , that you thought even short of formal recognition of theTurkishRepublicof Northern Cyprus , there are things that we should do to reach out to the Turkish Cypriots and to let them know that their support for the Annan plan has not been unappreciated.  In concrete terms, what specifically do you think we can and should do to be helpful to the Turkish Cypriots?

MR. COOK:  Thank you.

MS. SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  I’ll take the first—

MR. COOK:  You take the first part.  I’ll take the second thing—

MS. SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  I think you’re absolutely right that hectoring the Europeans in a public way about the importance of letting Turkeyinto the European Union is not effective.  And that’s why I mentioned the imperative of rebuilding our relationship with our principal European partners, in addition to rebuilding the relationship with Turkey , because here what we need is the confidence of a shared perspective on the strategic challenges we face and a respect for American views.  And getting on a platform and embarrassing these governments in public, who have domestic constituencies that are clearly concerned about loss of jobs and other ways in which their way of life may be fundamentally changed by Turkish accession, is not going to be successful.

So it—my view and the way it’s been written in the report is that there should be high-level and discreet diplomacy.

MR. COOK:  And on the question of Cyprus, I think that it’s important to recognize that we—the United States can take a role in—and has taken a leading role—in developing commercial ties, providing—extending diplomatic relations, accepting TRNC passports for travel, so on and so forth.  From the Turkish perspective, this isn’t quite enough.

    We can do more on the commercial ties and economic ties.  We should help the Turks on the plan that they tabled in late January in terms of opening of ports.  I think it’s important that the United States can clearly send a message to the RepublicofCyprusin terms of increased diplomatic activity, commercial ties, as well as the possibility of U.S. Naval port visits to the northern portion of the island.

This not an effort—this is not a creeping recognition of the so-called TRNC, but what it is is an effort to develop some leverage in working with the RepublicofCyprusto get them to deal constructively with this problem, as well as, in fact, reward the Turkish Cypriots for doing the right thing.

MR. GROSSMAN:  Could I just go back for a moment to Liz’s point about the kind of diplomacy going forward here on the European Union. I think that’s right, although being a guilty party over the last 10 or 15 years, there is a time for the United States to speak out for the strategic imperative of Turkey ’s membership in the European Union.

I call on the ambassador of Cyprus for a moment.  (Pause.)  Yes, a mike is coming. 

QUESTION:   Thank you very much.  Very briefly, a very wise Cypriot Turk once educated me in my hometown, a very religious man.  He said, “Young man, the Almighty has given—Allah—he has given us two ears and one tongue, so hear twice before you speak once.”  So I try to listen very, very carefully; just briefly make some comments.

I start—we start from a very simple truth, that geography is destiny.  Turkey is our neighbor.  We have had a troubled relationship with Turkey, and the only way to moderate that relationship and to have a situation whereby our giant next to our door is a predictable one is to bring it and put it a hundred percent clearly in the European Union.  So we are fundamentally, in words and deeds, supporting that—I want to be clear about it—because geography is destiny.  It’s not “if”Turkeybecomes a member of the European Union, “when” Turkeybecomes a member of the European Union.  

It’s a long process.  It is notTurkeyjoining the European Union—it is not the European Union joiningTurkey , it is Turkeyjoining the European Union.  And let me remind you also that it is a cumbersome process for all members that joined, including the United Kingdom.  It took more than 10 years for the United Kingdom to join the European Union, with two French vetoes, I may add.    Now, as to the—and I’m indebted to Elizabethfor putting it in the wider context of—putting theCyprusquestion into the wider context.  And I couldn’t agree with you more.  And it is exactly that context and American leadership that scares us.  It is exactly that context that scares us, despite the fact there have been good people—Tom Weston, Marc Grossman, Matt Bryza, Dan Fried—very good people that worked diligently on these things.

Let me read something to you that was said in one of your predecessors, Marc, if I may be allowed.  She went on the record on this.   “Cypruswas a terribly crucial issue for the U.S.  The United States was of the view that Turkey ’s image in the world regarding the Cyprusissue should change.  Turkey should be considered as a good guy on Cyprus, thus changing the existing perceptions in the world. The U.S.recognizes the good job done by TurkeyonCyprusbecauseCyprus , with or without a solution, should not constitute an obstacle to Turkey ’s EU accession."  End of quote.  On the record.

MR. GROSSMAN:  But let me ask you, though, does the idea that kind of a little less U.N. or a little more EU kind of attract you at all?

QUESTION:   Absolutely, because—absolutely.  We have benchmarks. And things have been happening on the ground, as well.  More than 10 million visits across the cease-fire line incident free.  Per capita income of the Cypriot Turks right now is $11,000, Cypriot Greeks in $18,000.  Things have been going on. 

MR. GROSSMAN:  All right.

QUESTION:    The president of the republic is having a meeting with the Cypriot Turkish leader on the 3rd of July to talk issues dealing with the missing persons.  Gambari is going.  So we’re not in a static situation.   And I wanted to react to that and just to keep it short.  

MR. GROSSMAN:  Thank you very much.  I appreciate that.

QUESTION:   And thanks for giving me the floor.  I appreciate it.

MR. GROSSMAN:  Of course.


QUESTION:   Ian Lesser, Wilson Center and Mediterranean Advisors.  I was wondering if I can ask you about the issue of diversification in the relationship, because observers on both sides have said for many years that one of the problems, one of the things that’s made the relationship brittle is the fact that it’s so heavily focused on security issues.  All sorts of reasons why that’s natural.  But I was wondering if you could comment on what scope you see for diversifying the relationship—trade, investment, the cultural side—to build a constituency for the relationship here.  MS. SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  Thank you, Ian.  Yes, the relationship has been about security, in large part, but there have been other important dimensions as well.  And one of the most important recommendations that we make is for the development of those other dimensions to accompany the strengthening of the security relationship, which has become frayed.  

And so our proposal has been to establish a U.S.-Turkey Cooperation Commission, which would be modeled on something like the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission of the ‘90s between theUnited States andRussiaor on an initiative undertaken by Secretary of State Shultz in the ‘80s to rebuild the relationship with Canada .  

And it would involve several groups that are brought together across the governments of the two countries:  one focused on strategic issues; one focused on economic and commercial ties involving our Treasury Department and Commerce Department, helping Turkey on the economic reform front and creating incentives for greater investment and trade; and a third focused on cultural and education exchange, which really looks toward the next generation, to creating a new stake in the relationship for those who are young, coming of age, don’t come out of the Cold War framework and need to understand why we each value each other.

    So, I completely concur in your assessment that to reweave the fabric of this relationship we need to do much more than rely only on security cooperation, although I also believe that security cooperation is essential to the relationship.

And here I would just add one point which we haven’t mentioned, which is that Turkeyhas been an extraordinarily important partner in Afghanistan .  And this is largely uncelebrated.  It takes place through NATO.  Turkey has had two leadership roles in the Afghanistan command, and is a very important partner to the United States in what is an increasingly difficult challenge for us.

MR. COOK:  Let me just add on this question of the cultural and educational exchange, just a personal anecdote.  When I was living in Turkey and meeting a lot of young people, given the nature of the work that I was doing there, there was a real constituency for this relationship.  People would say to me—young people in their 20s and early 30s would say, “Why are we so interested in Europe ?  We feel a kindred spirit with the United States.  We want to live like Americans, we like American culture.”  And so on, and so forth. Everybody wanted to go to the United States and study.  

And just a short five or six years later, the fact that the new Pew Global Attitudes Survey has come out, and there’s 70 percent or more of Turks have a negative view of the United States is deeply disturbing.  And we think that this rung—this education and cultural thing, which always tends to be the kind of poor stepchild of these types of commissions and exchanges, is a very, very important aspect of the relationship.  

And from the Turkish side, just picking up on what Liz said, the fact that Americans don’t recognize immediately Turkey’s real leadership role in Afghanistan; Turkey was one of the first militaries to deploy when asked to send 90 Turkish special forces to go coordinate with the Northern Alliance.  Turkish military officers have been working with Americans in Afghanistan from the very beginning. And this is something that I think that Americans are unaware of, and an important role that I think the Turks need to get the message out as well, an important aspect of reweaving the relationship and developing a constituency for this relationship beyond the Pentagon, which we see has been damaged, and beyond the halls of foreign ministries.

MR. GROSSMAN:  Good.  Thank you very much.  Don Bandler.

(Note:  There are brief audio breaks in the following question due to a malfunctioning microphone.)

QUESTION:   Thank you, Marc.  Don Bandler from Kissinger McLarty Associates.

Yeah, I wonder if the panel might address something that we haven’t touched on too much yet in the discussion, and that’s crisis prevention.  Because it does strike me that there—the degree of tension in the—(off mike)—talking about.  (Off mike)—between GreeceandTurkey , with—(off mike)—maritime issues, the level of rhetoric—(off mike)—is highly competitive at times.  I follow it every day.  And it’s not a sweet song that’s being sung, I think—

MS. SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  Rhetoric where, Don, in Turkey or in the United States or both?

QUESTION:  Well, I mean the tone is a little bit different.  In Cyprus —(off mike)—exchange of views, treating it as a very—(off mike)—

MR. GROSSMAN (?):  (Referring to dysfunctional microphone.) That’s all right, we got it.  He’ll be okay.  No, no, I don’t want you to—don’t worry about the microphone.  The microphone’s on.

QUESTION:   Okay.  Yeah, so anyway, that’s the thrust of the question, to see whether you would agree that crisis-prevention mechanisms ought to be moving into place now just to ensure against accident.

MS. SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  I’m not sure what kind of crisis mechanism preventions you’re recommending.  One of the important elements of this report is this creation of a trilateral dialogue, immediately, on managing Iraqfrom the U.S.-Turkish perspective, and that’s because the most likely area of real challenge to the relationship in the near term involves the possibility that Iraqwill not hang together, and what the consequences are for the U.S.-Turkish relationship.  So we are proposing that we get a mechanism in place now with the Turks to address the many issues that are on the table.

In terms of other crisis-management mechanisms, we do have vehicles.  There is also NATO that is involved in some of the issues that you’ve raised.  So, we haven’t proposed some other new arrangement that would be specifically for crisis management, although the effort to rebuild the relationship would certainly enhance the prospect that we are able to talk to one another in an effective way and to avoid descent into rhetoric and finger-pointing, should there be a challenge.

MR. COOK:  Let me—let me—at the risk of sounding flip, I think the best crisis-prevention mechanism for Turkeyand its    environment is Turkey ’s progress towards EU membership.  If Turkey is feeling that it is moving in a positive direction, it will significantly lessen tension in the Aegean and the Mediterranean. These kinds of air incidents have happened umpteen times over the years, but if the rift between Turkeyand its neighbors are finally resolved by Turkey ’s entry and safe entry into the European Union, it has a place in the European Union, you’re not likely to get Greek and Turkish F-15s dog-fighting over the Aegean .

    MR. GROSSMAN:  Okay.  

There’s a gentleman there.  Yes, sir.  Yes, sir.

QUESTION:   Patrick Theros.  It’s been a long time.  I grew a beard since then, I think.

I’d like to call your attentions to page 15 and 16 of the report, both concerning Cyprusand the Annan plan.  There’s a statement here that says “call for the establishment of a federation of two constituent states on Cyprus , territorial adjustment, population relocation, all to the benefit of the Greek Cypriot side.”  Probably being one of the very few people in this room that has actually read the Annan plan, I found that a truly amazing statement.  But more importantly, on page 16, “Every recommendation that you make in this report is to increase the division between the Turkish-occupied part ofCyprus , northern Cyprus , and the RepublicofCyprus .  There is no recommendation whatsoever to improve the relationships.  It is all stick for one side and all carrot for the other.”  Would you care to comment on that?

MS. SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  Want to comment?

MR. COOK:  Sure.

We studied the Annan plan very carefully.  I’m also somebody in the room who’s read the Annan plan.  And I know that Liz has as well. But on the question of sticks and carrots, it strikes us that when you look back on the referendum, the Turkish Cypriot side did the right thing:  it voted for the resolution of the conflict on the island, and that the United States made a number of commitments to the Turkish Cypriots at that time that we should live up to it.  In addition, the carrots to the Turkish Cypriot side is a way in which to leverage a more productive and forthcoming position from the Greek Cypriot side.

MR. GROSSMAN:  Yes, sir.

QUESTION:   Spurgeon Keeney, National Academy of Sciences. I’d like to pursue a little further the Turkish-Kurdish problem.  As we all know, one of the ultimate solutions in Iraq has been a three- state solution in which Kurds would either be an independent state, or essentially independent state in a very loose confederation.  And the principal argument, or one of the principal arguments against this has been this would be so unacceptable to the Turks, and particularly the    Turk military, that it would lead to Turkish military action against this new state as soon as a preventive war could be arranged.  Is this a realistic threat, or does it exaggerate the extent of the tension between Turks and Kurds?

MR. COOK:  I’ll take that.  I think it’s a realistic—one of the realistic possibilities within a band of possibilities that if the Kurds go in a direction towards where they’re going to declare independence, or Iraq is partitioned into three states, the Turks believe that this is an existential issue for them, given their large Kurdish population on the border with Iraq and their large Kurdish population throughout Turkey.  The Turkish general staff is clearly, clearly concerned, as is the Turkish government.  And you also must recognize that the complexity of Turkish domestic politics right now, we are going to be entering into an election cycle in Turkey in 2007, and this is a major issue in which it’s very difficult, it’s very difficult for Turkish politicians, Turkish officers and Turks in general to talk about a situation in which they can live comfortably, or feel comfortably with an independent Kurdish state right next door, given the stakes that they perceive there to be with this type of Kurdish nationalism.  

So I think it’s an absolute—it is a realistic concern. Whether it’s going to happen any time soon—unlikely.  But we do know that the Turks have been moving forces closer to that area.  And it’s something that the United States should be prepared for and one of the reasons why we propose this trilateral dialogue:  so everybody’s interests and perceptions and views are on the table so that we can manage this issue should—should—things go very terribly wrong in Iraq.

MR. GROSSMAN:  I’ve got time for one quick question and one quick answer.  You got it.

QUESTION:   Frank Finelli, The Carlyle Group.  (I’m) concerned that we understand the erosion in military ties between the U.S.andTurkey .  When you look back 10 or 15 years, we had dozens of bases, we had severalU.S.and NATO headquarters, we had billions of dollars in coproduction programs across fighter aircraft, combat vehicles, electronics—none of that today.  We need more than meetings with CENTCOM.  What are some of the larger steps that could be taken?

MS. SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  I agree with you completely that we need more.  But what we need to do is rebuild at the foundation that military-to-military relationship.  I would like to see the development of a strategic consensus between the two countries so that we could be cooperating in meeting a whole range of threats that we perceive that we face and which we believe the Turks should perceive as well.  And so, if you look at the near region, whether it’s dealing with instability in central Asia or the Caucasus, relations with Russia, farther afield relations with countries consuming large quantities of energy, obviously the greater Middle East, we have many reasons to be engaged in a broad dialogue with the Turks and in the    follow-on steps, which would be cooperation to meet threats and cooperation to advance our interests.  And that is going to require confidence on both sides that each understands the other to be a good and reliable and solid ally who we can count on.  So these are the first steps that need to be taken in that direction.

MR. GROSSMAN:  I have a hand.  You get the last word.

MR. COOK:  I think we need to walk before we can run again.  And my understanding is, just as a point of fact, a lot of those bases were NATO installations that were closed as a result of the end of the Cold War.  But I do think that it is critical to rebuild this military-to-military relationship.  A lot of the contracting, coproduction stuff is—has fallen off because of the economic difficulties that Turkey ran into in 2000, 2001, et cetera.  And it is also trying to diversify its weapons procurement.  But I couldn’t agree more with what Liz has said.


Well, I think it’s about 1:30 .  And my promise is to stop, and we thank the authors of this report, and we thank you very much. (Applause.)

MR. COOK:  Thank you.

MR. GROSSMAN:  Thanks. 


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