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Joint Press Conference by President Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, May 2013

Speakers: Barack Obama, and Tayyip Erdogan
Published May 16, 2013

President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan held a joint press conference on May 16, 2013. They discussed trade, security commitments in NATO, and the situation in Syria.

Excerpt from the press conference:

"Q My first question to you, Prime Minister. You talked about chemical weapons and we know that Turkey has some evidence. Did you present that evidence to President Obama in today's meeting? And what does Turkey expect from the United States in this process?

Question to President Obama about Syria. You had said earlier that chemical weapons would be a red line in Syria. Do you believe that at this point in time Syria has over-gone the red line? And you said that Assad should go. Will the U.S. take more initiative to see Assad go in the future?

PRIME MINISTER ERDOGAN: (As interpreted.) Let me, first of all, say that chemical weapons and missiles, rockets that have been fired -- all that information is shared between the relevant bodies within our administrations. And it's not just Turkey and the United States. For example, the United Kingdom and all others have those documents, that information, because we share information. And the U.N. Security Council, all the other relevant authorities will also receive that information in the proper time so that more information is provided to the public. So we will continue to work in this way.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, as the Prime Minister indicated, our militaries, our intelligence and diplomatic personnel are constantly sharing information. And I've said in the past, we have seen evidence of the use of chemical weapons inside of Syria. It is important for us to make sure that we're able to get more specific information about what exactly is happening there.

But separate and apart from the chemical weapons, we know that tens of thousands of people are being killed with artillery and mortars, and that the humanitarian crisis and the slaughter that's taking place by itself is sufficient to prompt strong international action.

And that's why the Prime Minister and I spoke extensively about the steps we're taking on humanitarian efforts; the steps that we're taking to strengthen the opposition politically so that it is inclusive and representative of all the people inside of Syria; the steps that we need to take to continue to strengthen the capacity of the Syrian opposition that are on the ground fighting to protect themselves from the Assad regime; and that we continue to try to mobilize the entire international community to put more and more pressure on Assad so that he recognizes that he is no longer legitimate and that he needs to go, and that we are able to move to a political transition in which the institutions inside of Syria are still functioning, but we have a representative, multiethnic, multi-religious body that can bring about democracy and peace inside of Syria.

With respect to what I've said in the past around red lines -- what I've said is that the use of chemical weapons are something that the civilized world has recognized should be out of bounds. And as we gather more evidence and work together, my intention is to make sure that we're presenting everything that we know to the international community as an additional reason, an additional mechanism, for the international community to put all the pressure that they can on the Assad regime, and to work with the opposition to bring about that political transition.

Now, there are a whole range of options that the United States is already engaged in, and I preserve the options of taking additional steps -- both diplomatic and military -- because those chemical weapons inside of Syria also threaten our security over the long term, as well as our allies and friends and neighbors.

But this is also an international problem. And it is very much my hope to continue to work with all the various parties involved, including Turkey, to find a solution that brings peace to Syria, stabilizes the region, stabilizes those chemical weapons. But it's not going to be something that the United States does by itself. And I don't think anybody in the region, including the Prime Minister, would think that U.S. unilateral actions in and of themselves would bring about a better outcome inside of Syria."

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