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Press Conference with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
International Media Centre, Savannah, June 9, 2004, 16h34

PRIME MINISTER ERDOGAN: –We, as Turkey, have been hosting and attending various international organizations. Turkey, throughout the year, will be hosting the NATO Summit and EU and OIC meeting and also will host the OIC Foreign Ministers meeting. And we will also be having a joint summit of the OIC and EU countries and foreign ministers will be coming for the second time. We'll try to establish a link between the world of Islam and European Union and they will evaluate the developments accordingly.

These global meetings will be hosted by Turkey. Of course, as far as international relations go, the G8 Summit is very important and we have accepted an invitation which was held in accordance within the framework of G8 meetings; I came here with my colleagues. In this framework, we would like the Middle East to be an area of peace, prosperity and modernity. And to achieve this goal, those things that need to be done and to put the mutual world to achieve those goals, that's why we paid we attributed importance to the G8 Summit. And the declaration of the Summit and the partnership for future declaration for the region that includes the Middle East and North Africa will be supporting the democratization along with G8 leaders.

The G8 initiatives is based on democracy, supremacy of law, human rights, justice. These are values that are global values for all humanity. And the reactions coming from the region show that these values are global values.

I would like to specifically underline two issues here. One of them is the negative attitude negativism in the Middle East is not the destiny of the people of the Middle East. And I have been saying this over and over. For a while, these people were the frontiers of the human civilizations and now they have the necessary dynamism and determination for reform. And they are able.

This region is one of the most rooted has one of the most rooted cultural treasures of the history of mankind, and the political traditions and also their economic structures had been cradles in the past. The people of the region today pay importance to global peace, global structuring and prosperity. The restructuring and reform efforts will make sure that the people of the region should be assisted by the more developed countries. This is a duty of humanity and that's how we approach it.

Of course, we have responsibilities; we all have to know this very well. The chronic problems of the region need to be solved and the psychological infrastructure of the reform efforts and the political foundations are very important. How we came to this point – we have to think of this. This is important as far as I believe. If we were to look back when we realize that September 11 th was the beginning of all of this, after September 11 th, there was the Afghanistan, then Iraq, and in both countries, the efforts to bring a peace period – a transitional period – a transition to peace is continuing.

Of course, in Afghanistan today there is a current structure in Kabul, however, outside of Kabul the expected, the desired atmosphere has not been established yet. And now, in September there will be an election in Afghanistan and with this election the Afghan people from now on will have their ability to choose their own leadership. Of course, in Iraq there is a transitional administration, and this administration it's transition to a permanent administration and moving on to democracy they need to be supported. And the current coalition forces should leave the administration to the temporary administration as soon as possible and Iraq should build construct its own future. We believe this is a need.

Another issue that I have to share with you has to do with neighboring countries and Turkey, which is a neighbor and has a past history, a shared history with neighboring countries, which has a goal of establishing a Middle East with prosperity and peace. At this point, we have to pay a lot of attention to the relations between Israel and Palestine. The recent events undoubtfully not only have an effect on Israel and Palestine, but at the same time has an effect on Iraq and other countries as well. In any case, this needs to be resolved and for that, as far as Turkey is concerned, we are ready to be of help for all kinds of steps that can take place to achieve peace.

Of course, terrorism, no matter from which side it comes from, we are against all types of terrorism. I have been saying this over and over. I'll say it today and I'll say it again later on in the future. After all, it's the human that terror hits, and we will never support a concept of civilization based on killing people. And we cannot, because being civilized has nothing to do with it and no one should kid themselves. The desire of all of us, if we are talking about if we are defending global peace, then all the strong countries have to fulfill their responsibilities. That's why I found this G8 Summit very important, and the efforts of the Summit will, I'm sure, take the necessary steps.

And this G8 initiative will be established by the declaration of the Summit which took place in the declaration. One of them is that the change should not be imposed from our side. This has to continue with success until the very end.

And secondly, the atmosphere, the differences of each and every country has to be taken into consideration; both Middle Eastern and North African regions and all the countries have their own characteristics, specifications. You can't see them as products that came out from the same machine from the same pipeline. These are all different, and all these differences have to be evaluated, especially the philosophical foundations of these countries have to be evaluated and all the contributions based on these evaluations will be very important in terms of reaching a solution.

And, thirdly, regional governments and non-governmental organizations and business circles should be accepted as equal partners, and this partnership should be held very high. If we were to pay attention to these three issues, I'm sure the G8 Summit will be successful in its endeavors.

As for the summary of the whole initiative, both in terms of the living conditions and the will of the efforts mutual consensus, a collective intellect has to be established and the prosperity and happiness of the region, along with the prosperity and happiness of the humankind, is important for all of us. This is a duty for all of us. I would like to have the same prosperity and happiness in my own country to be flourish throughout the Middle East, through Afghanistan, in Israel, in Palestine, everywhere. This is my approach. And with this goal, and with this feelings I have attended this Summit and our title here was we were invited as a democratic partner especially justice, development, democracy and human rights, supremacy of law, all these issues all issues that have to do with these will be supported by my country. I outlined that and I'll continue to do so.

I thank you for your attention. If you have any questions, I'll try to answer them.

Q The declaration mentions that Turkey will be one of the core presidents of the democracy assistance dialogue. What kind of support will this give to the whole initiative? And your ideas regarding the prisoners that were released from Turkish prisons today was this discussed at the G8 Summit?

PRIME MINISTER ERDOGAN: First of all, this co-chairmanship of the democracy assistance dialogue, along with Italy and Yemen, throughout this process that has started, that will be the details will be established within the framework of this transitional period. It's our wish that predominately democracy, justice, supremacy of law, human rights and the economic development of these countries should be supported.

In summary, this poverty transition this poverty period has to end and the foundations for terror should be stopped, and how we can stop terrorism is the question we all have to answer. And the whole process will establish the answers accordingly.

Coming to your second question. As you know, this along with our administration, since we came to power, we started the retrial process and throughout the retrial process, lately the justice judicial branch of the government had approved the earlier decision and the higher court the appeal court had started working on it and the appellate court took into consideration all the recent changes in our constitution and our laws. And based on these changes, the decision to release them was given. This was our expectation and the judicial branch worked according to the laws. And I wish all the best for my country and for the people of my country.

Q What's Turkey's approach to NATO taking a role in Iraq?

PRIME MINISTER ERDOGAN: For now, we're not in a position to make any decision of that sort. First of all, Iraq has a government and an administration and the people of Iraq have expectations on these issues. The concept that we've been emphasizing is the role of the United Nations, especially their role in humanitarian assistance should be stretched to the administrative efforts and political efforts as well.

Q Mr. Prime Minister, you mentioned the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and I wonder if the disengagement plan was discussed during the summit today? And we all know that Turkey criticized Israel recently because of the operation in Raffa and once the operation is concluded could you say that the relationship between the two countries are on the track again?

PRIME MINISTER ERDOGAN: – I've stated this before. Our target idea here is not Israel. The problem here has to do with the administration. Our relations with Israel is something that we hold dearly and we would like to continue on them. But on one side, when you are saying you're leaving Gaza and on the other side if you bomb those who are – who want peace, this will not be a sincere stand.

On one side, there is no attitude and and Syria, who hasn't done anything to you, if you bomb them, it's not sincere. At this point, if we are going to establish peace and we want to shut all these bombs in the region, and if the helicopters will not kill people by masses, and if the planes will not kill people, then we have to do what is required. We're very sincere on this issue. I would like to state that I've proven this during the terrorist incidents in my own country in Istanbul as far as the past is concerned, our sensitivities are very well known. And the way this is going should be in the way of peace. And as far as Turkey is concerned, we're willing to do whatever we need to do and we can do. And there is a lot we can do, we believe.

Especially the Jewish citizens of Turkey know of my relations with them. They know very well. And they know how is our relations and how is their living conditions in Turkey. And we would like the whole Middle East to be like that. I thank you.

Q Today, the G8 leaders and the Middle Eastern leaders had lunch together. Can you tell us what was discussed at that meeting?

PRIME MINISTER ERDOGAN: The statements I made in my introduction were a summary of what was spoken during that lunch.

Q You mentioned that each country has its own characteristics. Turkey was invited here as a democratic partner,and Turkey has an issue to do with the other industrial countries that attended, which is the European Union membership issue. Was this issue discussed? Were there other countries from the Middle East supporting you, or does President Bush support you in any way?

PRIME MINISTER ERDOGAN: This was not part of the lunch, but it was a discussion throughout talks before the lunch, after the lunch and all the European leaders that were present have stated that and they always say that they support our country's membership aspirations, and President Bush has been supporting it from the very beginning. And he's been talking about the need of Turkey to be in the European Union. The Middle Eastern countries view Turkey's membership in the European Union to be very, very important for their perspectives, as well.

Q I'm sure you spoke with President Bush. Did you talk about Cyprus? Did you remind him did you request anything from him? And secondly, Turkey's involvement in democracy assistance dialogue do you think why was Turkey chosen as a co-chairman of this project because of the latest reforms in Turkey?

PRIME MINISTER ERDOGAN: Firstly, the democratic partnership issue Turkey's role in the region, especially with the fact that its implementation of democracy with all the institutions the success behind it is very important. And to then the history of democracy in Turkey has achieved a major distance. Another thing has been achieved the culture of Islam and culture of democracy has been co-existing in Turkey in harmony this is the most important achievement story of Turkey. And as far as the co-chairmanship of the democracy assistance dialogue group, all the countries has to do with their position has to do with justice, human rights, supremacy of law. How can these countries be of help after the evaluations, these countries were determined and we will do our best to bring this about as best as possible.

Regarding Cyprus, not during the lunch but I discussed Cyprus issue with President Bush and he said, we have been supporting you from the beginning, you kept your promise, you did your best, you showed leadership, and we will continue to support you, he said.

Q There's a very strong perception and belief in the Middle East that the United States is very biased towards Israel. In your opinion, how detrimental is this perception of American bias towards Israel to the success of the broader Middle East initiative? And secondly, how does Turkey view the denial of the Iraqi government right to veto any offensive of American or FMN operations in Iraq in the resolutions of the United Nations?

PRIME MINISTER ERDOGAN: Regarding the attitude towards Israel, I'm hoping that after the latest developments, the United Nations Security Council's decision and the fact that U.S. was not a part of the decision – it had an abstained vote – I'm sure has changed the whole policy. From now on, the whole thing has to be evaluated from now on, especially U.S. should show the sensitivity which is important in the whole region regarding the conflict between Israel and Palestine. I will be meeting with Jewish groups in the United States during my visit and I will tell them very clearly because this is a mutual issue of humanity – it's not my personal issue; it's an issue of the Jews of the world. We're against anti-Semitism – anything that can create foundations for anti-Semitism is not something that we would support. We have a saying in Turkish – we should not be of support – we shouldn't be supporting it. And we will tell this very clearly to them.

And the decision regarding the Security Council decision in Iraq, at least it gives the administration some kind of confidence. It gives them a chance; that's why we find it important. And this temporary administration – at least with this support – will see what they can do and will have a chance to see what they can deliver. It is our wish that Iraq should unite with its own people and its transition to democracy take the necessary steps.

And the current terrorism in Iraq should leave Iraq as soon as possible. Iraq should be free of terrorism. That's what our wish and goal is.

Q – of the Middle East initiative was emphasizing reform as opposed to the peace process and Europe and the Arab countries were opposed to that. How do you assess the current drafting? Are you satisfied with it – the linkage between the advancement in peace process and reform?

PRIME MINISTER ERDOGAN: You heard what I just explained to you a while ago. I believe when the first steps were taken, different interpretations were made, but the content was not in accordance with this interpretation. And after all, from the very beginning we've been emphasizing that this should be a democratic opening, should have democracy development, justice, supremacy of law, human rights it should not be an imposed from our side it should be motivating the dynamics domestic dynamics of the people of that region. And our position should only be of assistance. We should only be assisting them, helping them, the developed countries, if those countries who have resolved the issues that have to do with these global values can provide the necessary support to the countries of the Middle East this can have to do with the establishment of institutions, information could be sent, increasing trade if they can achieve providing that support then at least we can we will have established our humanitarian responsibilities. It would be a major service to them and it would be the biggest contribution to peace.

I thank you all very much.

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