Written Responses to Questions Submitted by the Turkish Newspaper Hurriyet
June 22, 1988
Q. Turkish President Mr. Kenan Evren will pay an official visit to Washington, DC, this June upon your invitation. What are your expectations in respect to this visit?
The President. I look forward to meeting President Evren, a man who holds a special place in the modern history of Turkey. He and I have the opportunity to reinforce the ties of mutual interest, friendship, and cooperation that have historically linked our nations and peoples. As a major ally of the United States, Turkey is a country of great importance to the American people. President Evren's visit will mark another vital step in the development of this relationship.
Q. How would you assess the course of the Turkish-American relationship during your Presidency? What were your priorities? What has given you the most personal satisfaction in regard to the Turkish-American relationship during this period? What have been your disappointments?
The President. Hosting the Turkish President gives me great satisfaction because the visit symbolizes the importance of the Turkish-American partnership to both our peoples. The interests and the democratic values of our nations and peoples coincide. In the past 7 1/2 years, we have strengthened our friendship. Like all friends and allies, we have had occasional areas of disagreement, but when the overall relationship is as strong as it is between our two countries, disagreements do not prejudice the fundamental relationship. Today, following Turkey's successful resolution of the problems of anarchy and violence which it confronted during the 1970's, Turkey and the United States once again deal with each other and with the world as strong, self-confident democracies. This is a powerful bond between our two peoples. In addition, I think it very important that over the past 8 years there has been significant growth in the support for the Turkish-American relationship in our Congress.
President's View of Turkey
Q. How would you describe your perception of Turkey in the economic, political, and security fields?
The President. Turkey is of great importance. Its democratic values, its secular orientation, and the political commitment it has made to full involvement in the Western community of nations are very significant. A glance at a map explains the unique geographic and strategic situation of your country. I have admired the way Turkey overcame the forces of terrorism and anarchy which threatened your freedoms in the late 1970's. The commitment of the Turkish people to democracy is obviously very strong. Turkey's economic potential has always been very great. I have been impressed by Turkey's economic advances in the 1980's through a market-oriented approach to economic growth and progress.
Turkey's Role in the Middle East
Q. Although participating fully in such Western institutions as NATO, Turkey is an Islamic country and also a part of the Middle East. How does this fact affect the U.S. policy considerations towards Turkey? In your view, what is Turkey's role in the region?
The President. Turkey clearly can and does play a special role in the Middle East. In part, this role is a product of its traditions and its achievements, which gives it a special relationship to the area. We value the insights of your leaders into developments and trends throughout the region. More broadly, Turkey's success as a Western, modern, and secular state has a significant impact as a potential model for the region.
Q. Several developments in Washington are contributing to a growing uneasiness towards the United States in the Turkish public and official circles. Among these developments, declining assistance levels, conditions added on assistance programs in Congress, and restrictions imposed on Turkish exports could be named. How do you plan to address those problems? What would you recommend to the next administration in this respect?
The President. None of the issues which you have raised are new, and all are more than outweighed by newer, positive elements in our relationship. As I noted earlier, I think the relationship between Turkey and the United States is stronger, in part, because of the greater appreciation in this country of its importance to both Turkey and the United States. While budget austerity in this country limits assistance levels, we have found ways to make the assistance itself more effective through the extension of forms of assistance which do not require repayment and through the development of such programs as the Southern Region Amendment, under which we were able to provide 40 F - 4E aircraft to Turkey last year. The United States and Turkey have enjoyed excellent bilateral relations during the past 7 1/2 years. And as President, I have worked to expand the ties between Turkey and the United States beyond our security relationship. Today our two countries are increasingly linked by a growing variety of economic and cultural ties, and this gives me great satisfaction.
Q. There is a persistent feeling in the Turkish public that Turkey is taken for granted by the United States. How would you respond to this concern?
The President. First, I would say it would be very sad if either partner should take the relationship for granted. It is too important to us both for that attitude to prevail. But secondly, I must disagree with your statement. Such an approach assumes that Turkey does more for the United States than the United States does for Turkey. I believe that both nations are making great contributions to our common objectives. Our relationship with Turkey, like our relationships with our other allies, rests on the principle of collective defense. There is no doubt that both the United States and Turkey are more secure because of their alliance. The money the United States spends on strategic defense and conventional forces is money spent on the defense of Turkey as well. Our many years of sustained assistance to Turkey demonstrate that our commitment to the relationship is strongly rooted in American policy and belies the allegation that we take Turkey for granted. Finally, I think that President Evren's visit to the United States clearly indicates the importance which we give to our Turkish ally.
Turkey's Role in NATO
Q. What are the implications for Turkey of the ongoing dialog between you and Soviet leader Mr. Mikhail Gorbachev? In your opinion, what role would Turkey play in the post-INF period?
The President. Turkey, like all members of NATO, will benefit from the dialog between the United States and the Soviet Union, since this dialog is carried out within the context of, and with full recognition for, our NATO commitments. In the post-INF period, Turkey will remain, as it has always been, NATO's bulwark on the southern flank against Soviet aggression.
Q. How do you view the recent trends in Turkish-Greek relations? Are you hopeful that the "spirit of Davos'' could lead to the solution of the Cyprus problem?
The President. As a friend and ally of both Greece and Turkey, we can only welcome the reduction in tensions that has followed the meeting of Prime Ministers Ozal and Papandreou at Davos. As I suggested earlier, we believe strongly in the utility of dialog to solve international problems. Certainly the efforts of the U.N. Secretary-General through his good offices mission, which we strongly support, provide a vehicle for getting such a dialog underway. The issues are difficult and complex and will take time to resolve.
Note: The questions and answers were released by the Office of the Press Secretary on June 27.