REMARKS BY PRESIDENT OBAMA AND
PRIME MINISTER ERDOGAN OF TURKEY
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I want to extend the warmest of welcomes to Prime
Minister Erdogan. I'm glad that I, personally, and the American people
have a chance to reciprocate the wonderful hospitality that was
extended to me when I visited Turkey in April.
As I said
when I had the great honor of addressing the Turkish Parliament in
Ankara, I am strongly committed to creating the best possible
relationship between Turkey and the United States.
a NATO ally, which means that we are pledged to defend each other.
There are strong ties between our countries as a consequence of the
Turkish American community that has been established here. We have had
the opportunity to work together during this recent financial crisis,
given Turkey's role as a member of the G20. And given Turkey's history
as a secular democratic state that respects the rule of law, but is
also a majority Muslim nation, it plays a critical role I think in
helping to shape mutual understanding and stability and peace not only
in its neighborhood but around the world.
course of our discussions here, we've had the opportunity to survey a
wide range of issues that both the United States and Turkey are
concerned about. I thanked Prime Minister Erdogan and the Turkish
people for their outstanding contributions to stabilizing Afghanistan.
We discussed our joint role in helping Iraq achieve the kind of
independence and prosperity that I think has been advanced as a
consequence of the election law finally being passed over the weekend.
We discussed issues of regional peace, and I indicated to the Prime
Minister how important it is to resolve the issue of Iran's nuclear
capacity in a way that allows Iran to pursue peaceful nuclear energy
but provides assurances that it will abide by international rules and
norms, and I believe that Turkey can be an important player in trying
to move Iran in that direction.
And we discussed the
continuing role that we can play as NATO allies in strengthening
Turkey's profile within NATO and coordinating more effectively on
critical issues like missile defense.
I also congratulated
the Prime Minister on some courageous steps that he has taken around
the issue of normalizing Turkish/Armenian relations, and encouraged him
to continue to move forward along this path.
the shared commitment to defeat terrorist activity regardless of where
it occurs. I expressed condolences to the Prime Minister and the
Turkish people for the recent terrorist attack that was taken there and
pledged U.S. support in trying to bring the perpetrators of this
violence to justice.
And finally, I complimented the Prime
Minister for the steps that he's taken, often very difficult steps, in
reintegrating religious minorities and ethnic minorities within Turkey
into the democratic and political process, and indicated to him that we
want to be as supportive as possible in further steps that he can take,
for example, assuring the continuation of the Halki Seminary and
addressing the vital needs of continuing the ecumenical patriarchy
Over all, just to summarize, I am
incredibly optimistic about the prospect of stronger and stronger ties
between the United States and Turkey that will be based not only on our
NATO relationship, our military-to-military relationship, our strategic
relationship, but also increasing economic ties.
of the concrete outcomes of this trip is to follow through on
discussions that I had with both Prime Minister Erdogan and President
Gul in Turkey to stand up a strategic working group around economic
issues and improving commercial ties. That will be launched with the
participation of Secretary of Commerce Locke and our U.S. Trade
Representative Ambassador Ron Kirk, along with Turkish counterparts.
And we think that there is enormous potential for us to grow trade and
commercial ties between the two countries.
Turkey is a
great country. It is growing in influence around the world. And I am
pleased that America can call Turkey a friend, and I'm pleased that I'm
able to call Prime Minister Erdogan personally a friend. I'm grateful
for his trip here and look forward to many years of collaboration with
him to observe both the prosperity of the American people and the
ERDOGAN: (As translated.) Thank you very much. I'm very grateful for
the hospitality that both myself and my delegation have been shown
since our arrival here. And I would like to once again express my
thanks for that hospitality.
The fact that the President
visited Turkey on his first overseas trip and that he described and
characterized Turkish-U.S. relations as a model partnership has been
very important for us politically and in the process that we all look
forward to in the future as well. And important steps are now being
taken in order to continue to build on our bilateral relations so as to
give greater meaning to the term "model partnership."
there are many sides to the development of this relationship -- be it
in the economic area, in the areas of science, art, technology,
political areas and military areas.
We have also appointed
two people from our side to act as counterparts in order to liaise with
their American counterparts to continue on this process. Those two
people are the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Ali Babacan; and the Minister
of State responsible for economic affairs, Mr. Zafer Caglayan on the
Turkish side. I do believe that this group is going to work to take
the Turkish-American relations forward, not just in the economic area,
but in all areas in general.
We, of course, have -- we take
joint steps on regional issues. This is in the Middle East, in Iraq,
with respect to the Iranian nuclear program. We continue to have joint
activity in Afghanistan, and the Turkish armed forces have taken over
the command of the forces there for a third time with the additional
support that we have sent to Afghanistan in the last couple of months.
And there are steps that we have taken with respect to training
activity and other activities in the context of provisional
reconstruction teams, and we continue on that. We've had an
opportunity to continue discussing those issues during our visit here.
important area, of course, is energy. Turkey is a transit country for
energy issues. And the agreement has been signed for Nabucco and we
are ready to take some important steps with respect to Nabucco.
continue to talk with Azerbaijan. I do believe that positive progress
will be made in this area. In addition to Azerbaijan, of course, there
is the importance of companies like Statoil, Total, and British
Petroleum and others.
We have also discussed relations
between Azerbaijan and Armenia, which is of great importance. This is
important in the context of Turkish-Armenian relations. We have
discussed the Minsk Group and what the Minsk Group can do -- the United
States, Russia, and France -- to add more impetus to that process. I
can say that to have more impetus in the Minsk process is going to have
a very positive impact on the overall process, because the
normalization process between Turkey and Armenia is very much related
to these issues. As the administration in Turkey, we are determined to
move forward in this area.
Another important issue with
respect for us in Turkey is the fight against terrorism. And there was
a statement that was made in this very room on the 5th of November
2007, which was very important in that context, because at the time we
had declared the separatist terrorist organization as the common enemy
of the United States, Turkey, and Iraq, because terrorism is the enemy
of all mankind.
Our sensitivity and response to terrorism is
what we have displayed when the twin towers were hit here in the United
States. Wherever a terrorist attack takes place our reaction is always
the same, because terrorism does not have a religion -- a homeland.
They have no homeland, no religion whatsoever.
also had opportunity to discuss what we can do jointly in the region
with regard to nuclear programs. We as Turkey stand ready to do
whatever we can to ensure a diplomatic solution to the nuclear issue in
our region. And we stand ready as Turkey to do whatever we can do with
respect to relations between Israel and the Palestinians, and Israel
and Syria, because I do believe that, first and foremost, the United
States, too, has important responsibility in trying to achieve global
And we, too, must lend all kinds of support that we
can in our regions and -- in our respective regions and in the world in
general in trying to achieve global peace, because this is not the time
to make enemies, it's the time to make friends. And I believe that we
must move hand in hand towards a bright future.
Thank you once again.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you.
All right, where's Ben Feller? There you are.
Q Thank you sir. I'd like to ask you briefly about a domestic
issue, that being the economy, heading to your speech tomorrow. Do you
support the use of federal bailout money to fund job creation
programs? Is that an appropriate use of that money? Is that something
that you plan to support tomorrow?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: You know, Ben, it would be a mistake for me to step on my speech tomorrow by giving you the headline today.
Q Not that big a mistake. (Laughter.)
OBAMA: But let me speak generally about what we've seen. On Friday we
got the best jobs report that we've gotten in a very long time. And it
significantly beat expectations. At minimum, it showed that for all
practical purposes, we've stopped losing jobs. And that's consistent
with the fact that in the third quarter we saw the economy grow.
first job when I came into office was to make sure that we got the
financial crisis under control and that we tried to limit the
devastating effects that it was having on the real economy. We have
had a very tough year, and we've lost millions of jobs. But at least
now we are moving in the right direction.
What my speech
tomorrow will focus on is the fact that having gotten the financial
crisis under control. Having finally moved into positive territory
when it comes to economic growth, our biggest challenge now is making
sure that job growth matches up with economic growth. And what we've
seen is, is that companies shed jobs very quickly, partly induced by
the panic of what was happening on Wall Street, and they are still
tentative about hiring back all those people who were laid off. Also
what we're seeing is some long-term trends where companies are becoming
so efficient in terms of productivity that they may feel that they can
produce the same amount of goods or services without as many employees.
So those present some particular challenges, given the fact that we
lost over 3 million jobs just in the first quarter of this year before
any of the steps we took had a chance to take effect.
respect to TARP specifically, I think you saw stories today and you've
seen stories over the last several weeks that TARP has turned out to be
much cheaper than we had expected, although not cheap. It means that
some of that money can be devoted to deficit reduction. And the
question is are there selective approaches that are consistent with the
original goals of TARP -- for example, making sure that small
businesses are still getting lending -- that would be appropriate in
accelerating job growth?
And I will be addressing that
tomorrow. But I do think that, although we've stabilized the financial
system, one of the problems that we're still seeing all the time -- and
I heard about it when it was in Allentown just this past week -- was
the fact that small businesses and some medium-sized businesses are
still feeling a huge credit crunch. They cannot get the loans that
they need to make capital investments that would allow them to then
expand employment. And so that's a particular area where we might be
able to make a difference.
Is there somebody in the Turkish delegation that wants to call on a reporter?
Q Mr. President, is there any new and concrete U.S. action plan for
disarmament and the elimination of the PKK terror organization in
northern Iraq? Thank you, sir.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well,
what the Prime Minister and I have discussed is coordinating closely in
dealing with the problem of the PKK. We have stated before and I have
reaffirmed since I came into office that the United States considers
PKK a terrorist organization, and that the threat that it poses not
only in Turkey but also in Iraq is one that is of deep concern. And as
NATO allies, we are bound to help each other defend our territories.
More broadly, I think that it is important for us to have a consistent
position with respect to terrorism wherever it takes place.
So we discussed how we can coordinate militarily. I will tell you that
with respect to the issue of the PKK, I think that the steps that the
Prime Minister has taken in being inclusive towards the Kurdish
community in Turkey is very helpful, because one of the things we
understand is, is that terrorism cannot just be dealt with militarily;
there is also social and political components to it that have to be
With respect to Iraq, I think the degree to
which the Kurdish population within Iraq feels effectively represented
within the central government in Baghdad, to the extent that we can
resolve some long-term pressing issues like Kirkuk, the more I think
that Kurds will recognize that their interests are not in supporting
any kind of military activity but rather in working through conflicts
politically, in a way that allows everybody to be prosperous. And
that's the kind of process that we would encourage.
Okay? Thank you very much, everybody. Happy holidays.