Joint Press Conference by Mr. Ahmet Davutoğlu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey and Mr. John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State, 1 March 2013, Ankara

FOREIGN MINISTER AHMET DAVUTOĞLU: (Via interpreter) Distinguished members of the press, his Excellency U.S. Secretary of State, my dear friend, Mr. John Kerry, it’s a pleasure to have you in our beautiful country and in our capital city. And it’s a privilege for us to be able to host you in this very historical landmark.


We have been in close collaboration with Mr. Kerry for a really long time because of his duty in the Senate. That’s why his assuming the duty of the Secretary of State of the United States of America brings another momentum to the relations, which are already very strong between us. I would like to wish him the best of luck and success in his future endeavors. His first visit to Turkey is a matter of pride and joy for us. I’d like to underline that fact.


And right before the bilateral talks, we’ve had the chance to go to the U.S. Embassy in Ankara to extend his condolences. And I would like to extend my condolences to the United States of America and the nation for that – for the terrorist attack that happened quite recently. And I would like to wish my condolences to the family of Mustafa Akarsu, who had lost his life in the attack. And I would like to wish that Didem Tuncay, the journalist who got injured as a result of the attack, will get better soon.


We were in Rome quite recently with Mr. Kerry, and we’ve had the chance to discuss over some folders that we had in our possessions, and we’ve attended certain dinners where we had the chance to discuss issues of mutual interest. And today, we’ve had the chance to exchange information about Syria. These were all very multilateral talks, but this time we’ve had the chance to dwell upon these issues in a very meticulous detail all by ourselves.


The mutual relations are at a perfect level. The President and the Prime Minister of Turkey, they both enjoy very close relations with President Obama. In terms of our mutual relations, when President Obama took over the office for the first time in the year 2009, can be explained best in his words – we have a strategic partnership that we enjoy at the utmost extent possible. Mr. Obama happens to be one of the leaders that has the closest contacts with His Excellency the Prime Minister of Turkey on a global scale. Mutually, we understand each other almost perfectly. We have institutionalized relations. We are allies, but especially after the Cold War era, we have been capable of strengthening the relations not only diplomatically but operationally.


In terms of daily practices, many challenges await us in many regions from Balkans to the Asia, from Middle East to Africa. There are many challenges ahead. That’s why within this framework, in our gathering today, we’ve had the chance to focus on many issues of mutual concern.


First and foremost, the United States of America, along with the European Union member states, they are foraging an agreement in terms of transatlantic free trade agreements. We have had the chance to speak about these issues in Rome, and Turkey has been enjoying customs union relations with the European Union and we are still continuing (inaudible) European Union. That’s why this transatlantic commercial and investment agreement and partnership is of crucial significance for Turkey. We believe that Turkey needs to play a significant role in that structure. And it was really important for him to mention the identical expectations.


We focused on regional issues, such as Syria and the recent developments within the framework of Arab Spring in Egypt, in Tunisia, in Morocco. The election periods and our joint perspective in that regard, the Afghanistan withdrawal process and the aftermath, and all of the issues surrounding NATO are some of the hot topics in our agendas where we’ve enjoyed mutual understanding. We are looking towards these issues from a common perspective. Our relations are of crucial importance for the future of both countries, not only for the two countries, but also, in terms of global and regional peace, we all need strengthening relations. And Turkey, along with the United States of America, approaching these issues from the same perspective, will contribute significantly to the establishing of global peace and stability.


I would like to wish success to Mr. Kerry in the context of issues he will be taking up in his forthcoming visits to the region. I should underline in particular that I’m glad to see the emerging strong willingness in the current term on the part of both from Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry concerning the Middle East Peace Process. All actors now need to spend every effort toward a lasting peace based on two states and 1967 borders. It is a common perspective for Turkey and the US that a lasting peace emerges in the Middle East and the rising democracies in the Middle East become stable.


Recent situation in Cyprus following the elections, the balance in the Caucasia and all the developments within Europe and Balkans will be discussed at every length possible in the future gatherings.


So as you can see, we have been touching upon significant issues from a very wide horizon. His Excellency Mr. Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be receiving Mr. John Kerry a very short time.


So I would like to wish him luck again. I would like to welcome him once again. Turkey is very familiar with him. He is a well-known name. This is a short visit, but I hope and pray that in the future visits he will have the chance to stay longer and diversify our already strong relations. And I would like to wish him the best of the luck in his future endeavors as the Secretary of State.


Welcome, John Kerry.


U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE MR. JOHN KERRY: Well, thank you very much, Minister Davutoglu. I appreciate the welcome. It is a short visit, but we’re going to pack a lot into it, and we already have. And I appreciate enormously your generous reception here. It’s a pleasure for me to be back in Turkey today.


And right before our meeting, I attended a memorial service for Mustafa Akarsu, the very brave security guard who gave his life in order to save the lives of many other people at our Embassy in the attack that took place last month. I want to thank the Minister and the people of Turkey for their condolences for that loss. It was a very moving ceremony and we were pleased to have his family there. And his wife was awarded a very well-known recognition for those who do lose their lives, and we were proud to be able to make that award to this courageous Turk.


Mustafa’s tragic death reminds all of us of the common bond that we share, no matter where we come from. And frankly, it underscores the urgent need to promote a spirit of tolerance, and that includes all of the public statements made by all leaders. It also underscores the important effort to expand freedom and democracy as we vigilantly strengthen security in this region and around the world. That’s one of our great challenges.


The Foreign Minister and I just had a very productive, very candid, direct conversation about the issues between us and also about the challenges here and the challenges at home in my country and the things that need to bring us together to work together more effectively. The United States stands strongly with Turkey, our NATO ally, in the fight against terrorism in all of its forms – al-Qaida, the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party Front, the PKK, and many others. And I want to thank the Minister and your country for your help in bringing the perpetrators of last month’s terrible attack to justice, and for being such a strong partner in fighting terrorism worldwide. Ours is a very difficult task and it’s going to require the maximum amount of cooperation, and it’s going to require an international effort.


We also continued the discussion that we had yesterday in Rome, an important discussion about how the international community can come together in support of the Syrian people in an effort to try to create a political transition and provide those people with the safety, security, and freedom that they deserve. Minister Davutoglu and I, along with our partners, believe that there is no legitimacy in a regime that commits atrocities against its own people, and we need to continue to work to make certain that the Assad regime makes a different set of choices. I want to thank Turkey for its clear leadership and its determination to help us end this bloodshed. And I’m grateful for the humanitarian support that your country has provided, including, I might add, serving as a refuge for hundreds of thousands of Syrians.


The Foreign Minister and I also talked about ways in which we can grow our significant economic partnership. He mentioned a minute ago the Transatlantic Investment Trade Partnership. This is a huge opportunity for all of Europe, for all of us, to be able to grow our ability to create more jobs at home and create greater strength in our relationship, and also even as we do so to break down the barriers between us. And I know the Foreign Minister looks forward to working with me, and we actually arrived at an understanding of a couple of ways in which we intend to continue to do that.


Through a number of bilateral dialogues, our governments are taking concrete steps in order to increase trade and investment. And thanks to these efforts, we have now established a $20 billion trading relationship, and we are eager to be able to grow it further. Needless to say, we have to, all of us, keep pushing the limits on finding creative ways to be able to bring prosperity to our populations.


We also discussed the importance of strengthening the protection of fundamental rights, the freedom of expression, freedom of the media. And history has proven decisively that nations that work constantly to safeguard these rights, democracies, people who respect basic freedoms are far more successful, far more stable, and far more prosperous. And that includes, I think, two models: Each of us growing and changing in our own ways, two models in both the United States and Turkey.


Our shared challenges are obviously many, but our two countries, I think, have grown to have an increasingly strong understanding for how we can strengthen this relationship. And we are going to tackle some very tough issues together in the days ahead, and I think the Foreign Minister and I set out a strong understanding of exactly what that agenda is, and strengthened our personal resolve to be able to do that and work together. I have known the Minister, as he said, for a long time, and we’ve worked together at various events. We’ve met in Washington, we’ve met here, we’ve met elsewhere in the world. I’m confident that we can work our way through moments of difficulty in order to grow the relationship and produce results.


Thank you, Mr. Minister.


QUESTION (Matt Lee/AP): Good afternoon, Mr. Foreign Minister. Over the past several years, but more increasingly in recent months, very senior Turkish officials, including yourself, have made what have been seen as increasingly hostile remarks about the State of Israel, about Zionism, and about the people of Israel. This includes not just the comments made by the Prime Minister this week, but also calling Israel a terrorist state and saying – questioning whether its existence is actually necessary.


So I’m wondering, what does Turkey hope to achieve by making these comments? Are they the kinds of comments that befit a nation that says that it is committed to peace?


And then, Mr. Secretary, in addition to wondering what you told the Foreign Minister and will tell the Prime Minister tonight about the Prime Minister’s comments, I’m wondering if you can listen closely to the Foreign Minister’s response to my question and tell me, tell all of us, what you think of that – of his response.


I’m wondering if you can say something about the effect the sequester will have on your employees and perhaps talk a little bit about what you expect to achieve in Egypt tomorrow. Thank you very much.


U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE MR. JOHN KERRY: Minister, I think the question went to you first.


FOREIGN MINISTER MR. AHMET DAVUTOĞLU(Via interpreter) : I would like to be very clear regarding the question you have asked. You have used the term “hostile remarks” in your question. We would like to explain once again to you, to the international and to our national public opinion.


We have never, in whatsoever way, made hostile statements to any state or nation. But if you want to talk about a hostile practice, Israel’s way could be said to be hostile in viciously killing our 9 civilian citizens in the high seas, despite the fact that the victims did not violate their laws in any way. Despite all these, we have given Israel the opportunity to rectify its stance. Instead of rectifying it, they insisted on their position in the last two and a half to three years and tried to legitimate their hostile stance. No statement has a greater value than a man’s blood. You are now in Ankara and I am asking you to: Please ask this question in Tel Aviv. What was the crime those nine innocent civilians committed? Those nine innocent civilians included also an American citizen. Ask this to the American public opinion, why was it that a ship on its way in the high seas was attacked as if it were an enemy ship. The Turkish nation keeps its friendships strong, its reaction to aggression against Turkish people would also be strong. And if you look at the past centuries, the history would witness that we have always been in closely concerned with the problems of the Jewish people and opened our arms and stood against anti-semitism. Today too, we are in the upfront among other nations standing against anti-semitism with a strong voice. We are in the upfront among the others standing against all forms of racism and we will continue in doing so. If it wants to hear positive statements from Turkey, Israel must review its position. It must review its position both toward us and toward other peoples in the region, starting from the problem of illegal settlements in the West Bank. You should not forget that up until the agression against Gaza, until “Mavi Marmara” the Israeli authorities were received at the highest level in Turkey, our Prime Minister, we spent days and nights working toward an Israeli-Syrian peace. We spent big effort toward an İsraeli-Palestinian peace, we would do it again. Mr, Kerry and Mr. Obama have informed us that they will spend serious effort on this issue.

Turkey will be ready to do whatever necessary toward a two-state, just solution based on 1967 borders. A state uttering such commitment, cannot possibly be claimed to have an attitude against the existance of the other. If, however, other states, one state, had threatened our citizens’ right to life openly and in a hostile way, then we should be permitted to preserve our right to make a statement against this. It is a reaction related to an aggressive stance. Otherwise, we are always ready to show every effort toward peace in the Middle East. Everyone knows how big efforts we have spent, in collaboration with the Israeli authorieties, up until lately. Ihave just said it to Mr Kerry that Turkey will be ready to give all kind of contribution, whatever necessary toward a two-state solution.


U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE MR. JOHN KERRY: Well, you asked me what my reaction is to the comments of the Foreign Minister, and they are this: that it underscores the importance of our efforts to try to find a way forward to make peace in this region and to resolve the kinds of differences that excite the passions that the Foreign Minister has just articulated, and the differences of opinions about words and about their impact. And I think that the Foreign Minister and I had a very direct and very honest conversation about this.


I have been working on this issue that he was just referring to for almost two years. I believe there is a way forward, but it obviously gets more complicated in the aftermath of a speech such as that that we heard in Vienna, about which your question and these issues are sort of rekindled. I raised that speech very directly with the Prime – with the Foreign Minister, and I will also raise it very directly with the Prime Minister. And I think it’s very clear from statements made where we are and what we believe about that. The White House spoke, and I think they spoke very clearly. And obviously, we not only disagree with it, we found it objectionable.


But that said, Turkey and Israel are both vital allies of the United States. And we want to see them work together in order to be able to go beyond the rhetoric and begin to take concrete steps to change this relationship. Now, I believe that’s possible. I particularly think that given the many challenges that the neighborhood faces, it is essential that both Turkey and Israel find a way to take steps in order to bring about or to rekindle their historic cooperation. I think that’s possible, but obviously we have to get beyond the kind of rhetoric that we’ve just seen recently.


I think that the Foreign Minister has indicated to me a genuine desire to do that. I think he has thoughts and I have thoughts about how we can do that. So I think the most important thing is to try to find a way, as he said, to build on what he just recommitted to. And I think that recommitment is what is important. He said that Turkey believes in the two-state solution, that Turkey is committed to the process, and that Turkey will do anything in its power to help the United States try to bring that about. And that’s why I came here, that’s one of the reasons I’m here, and we’re going to continue to work on that.


QUESTION (Sevil Küçükoşum/HDN): (Via interpreter.) Thank you. My question will be addressed to Mr. Kerry. When the Syrian issues first developed, there were certain harsh reactions coming from the side of U.S. But as time went by, Washington never seemed to have shown the support that the Syrian opposition was expecting. And as the countries of the region, Turkey seems to be undertaking the significant amount of the burden. The summit that was organized in Rome, and the meetings that you had today, in the aftermath of those gatherings, whether it be the humanitarian aid aisles extending all the way to Syria, whether it be the opposition support to – whether it be the support that the opposition will receive, what kind of concrete steps will you be taking? And in what terms can Turkey and the United States can collaborate in that regard? Thank you.


U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE MR. JOHN KERRY: Thank you very much. Well, let me just say that the United States has had the same goal as Turkey from the very beginning. And not only have we shared the same goal, but we have actually both undertaken different steps, some of them in concert together and some of them individually, in order to address the Syrian situation.


I want to stress, to begin with, we both believe that the first priority is to try to have a political solution. We would like to save lives, not see them caught up in a continued war. But we are clear about who we support in the effort to restore freedom and unity to the people of Syria. And in that effort, we have worked together, not just Turkey and the United States, but a whole group of countries, all of whom have been doing different things according to their laws and according to their abilities.


Now in some cases, there were reservations in the earliest stages about who we are dealing with, who are we giving something to, who’s going to manage it. And then the Syrian opposition came together. It has gained greater unity, it has gained a greater voice, greater capacity. And now I think a lot more people are more comfortable with the notion that they’ve answered the question of who and there is more effort undergoing.


But together Turkey and the United States rallied to put sanctions together, which have helped to reduce the amount of money flowing to Assad regime’s war machine. Together we worked to strengthen the Syrian opposition so that we are in a position now to be able to do more. Together we saw the NATO Patriots come here in order to secure Turkey’s border. Together we have worked on the humanitarian effort. And we acknowledge that Turkey is giving safe refuge to tens of thousands of refugees. I think there are about 182,000 here now and about some 200,000 outside the camps, so you got 300 and some thousand in all.


FOREIGN MINISTER MR. AHMET DAVUTOGLU: Outside the camps. Yes. Almost 400,000 together.


U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE MR. JOHN KERRY: Almost 400,000. And I would remind people that the United States of America is the single biggest humanitarian donor, having given about $385 million in order to be able to help create those camps, feed people in them, provide them shelter and security.


Now, our goal is the same goal as the Syrian people’s goal. It is to have a peaceful, political transition. But we are determined – and this was the – this is what came out of the meeting in Rome. I thought it was an extremely cooperative and determined, serious atmosphere in which there was unanimity by every country there that it was time to be able to do more in order that the Assad regime comes to understand that this – that the international community is not going to stand for SCUDs being fired indiscriminately against innocent civilians, women and children, young people, destroying the cities of Syria. That is unacceptable. And that determination began in earnest in Rome two days ago, and I am convinced, with the efforts of Turkey and others, it is going to continue in earnest in the days ahead.


FOREIGN MINISTER MR. AHMET DAVUTOĞLU: (Via interpreter) I would like to just share with you another remark. On March 15th, the second anniversary of the peaceful demonstrations will be celebrated in Syria. For the last two years, a civilian nation has been under heavy bombing and heavy attack. That’s why it is nigh time for the international community to full mobilize and start to move ahead. The Rome summit was a big confirmation…


You are following such closely…


U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE MR. JOHN KERRY: I’ve gotten so used to listening and actually understanding.


FOREIGN MINISTER DAVUTOGLU: Yes. I think this is because we are speaking not from the tongue to the ear but from the mind to the mind.


(Via interpreter.) In time, Mr. Kerry will be able to become much more fluent in the Turkish language. That’s what I believe.


Within this framework in the last gathering back in Rome, we’ve taken a significant momentum forward. Many significant decisions were made not only within the United Nations Security Council being a permanent member as the United States, but also having the identity of the strongest global actor, the US will have significant contributions to solution of dispute in Syria. The Syrian police of Turkey is clear, has always been clear, the legitimate demands of the Syrian people will be realized and such a political transformation will take place and the necessary steps in order for that to be possible should be taken.


But even before that, there are millions of hungry, starving Syrian people trying to strive, trying to survive, outside in tents. They cannot go home with baskets full of food. They cannot sustain their families any longer. So the international community should become much more receptive of their pains. That’s why the international humanitarian aid corridor should be established once and for all.


And, as Mr. Kerry has stated, SCUDs were being fired on the civilian settlements, and that’s a war crime. And such conduct should be brought to a halt once and for all. We had very comprehensive talks over these issues in Rome and those talks will continue, but the main objective of us all will have to boil down to the fact that we need to protect the innocent civilians in Syria. And we will keep on discussing these issues over dinner.


I would like to welcome you all once again.