SECRETARY KERRY: Well, good afternoon, everybody. And I’m delighted to welcome this afternoon to Washington my friend and my colleague, Mevlut Cavusoglu. We run into each other in a lot of different places. Probably this is the longest gap we’ve had in the last few months. But I’m very, very delighted to welcome him here to Washington in the full bloom of springtime.
We are about to begin a meeting with a very typical U.S.-Turkey agenda which covers a vast range of security, political, and economic issues.
We’re going to talk, for example, about the Iran nuclear negotiation, including both the progress that was made at Lausanne and the urgency of working out the final details for a comprehensive plan and clarity about the road forward if we do that with respect to the security interests of the region, which everybody shares concerns about.
Neither the United States nor Turkey believe that it would be acceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, just as we are also united in our concern about Tehran’s support for activities in the region which can be disruptive and destabilizing, and particularly any kind of support for terrorism or other kinds of destabilizing activities.
Counterterrorism in general will be high on our list of discussion today. Mevlut and I met just three months ago at the Counter-ISIL Ministerial in London. And since then, ISIL – or Daesh as many people know it – has suffered numerous setbacks. But much remains to be done, and we’re aware of that and we are committed to doing it. We’re committed to doing everything necessary to push Daesh out of Iraq and ultimately out of Syria or any other place where it seeks a foothold for terror.
Now, much will be done over the course of these next months, and we will be discussing that. But it is obvious that Daesh’s forces are under increasing strain, its leadership has been degraded, its finances have been squeezed, and its hateful ideology has been discredited. Now Turkey – Turkey has been – excuse me – has been and remains a very essential partner in all of these efforts and it is co-chair of the Coalition’s Working Group on Foreign Terrorist Fighters. And that convened just earlier this month in Ankara.
As Daesh has weakened, it has become more dependent on new recruits, which means that we have to redouble our efforts to persuade – and if necessary to prevent – young people from making the fatal mistake of signing up and then traveling to and trying to cross the border into Syria. Turkey is stepping up its efforts by improving screening procedures, expanding and implementing a “no entry list,” detaining suspected terrorists. In February, the Turkish Government also agreed to host a U.S.-led train and equip mission for the members of the vetted Syrian opposition.
On the humanitarian front, our ally is also hosting nearly two million refugees now, creating a huge economic burden and a social burden also on Turkey. The United States is grateful for Turkey’s generosity and is urging international donors to help address the refugee needs, including access to health care, education, and employment. In the past four years, the United States has contributed more than $3.7 billion in order to provide aid to the region, including more than a quarter of a billion to support relief efforts in Turkey specifically.
Now meanwhile, I am personally looking forward to my visit next month to Turkey for the NATO ministerial in Antalya, which is a city with a booming economy and a fascinating history, with mountains on one side, the Mediterranean on the other, and Turkish hospitality everywhere. It’s sure to provide a very inspiring setting for our review of NATO priorities. And one of those priorities is Russian aggression against Ukraine in the east, and the threat that is posed by violent extremists to NATO’s south, where Turkey’s contributions are especially important.
Now, I want to emphasize this afternoon the importance of the ties between the United States and Turkey, and particularly the security relationship at this particular moment. Turkey is playing a very important role in Afghanistan as part of Operation Resolute Support. It is protecting NATO’s southern flank with its patrols in the Black Sea, and it’s been making important contributions in Iraq.
I will resume my conversations this afternoon with the foreign minister on such issues as the failed leadership of Assad in Syria, the conflict in Yemen, and the ongoing problems in Libya, including the tragic death this week of hundreds of migrants at sea. The foreign minister and I will also be talking about energy security, which is critical to the geostrategic interests of the entire region.
Last month a consortium of partners broke ground on the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline, the longest segment of the planned southern corridor that would bring gas from the Caspian through Turkey and into Europe. My government thinks it is absolutely essential to complete the southern corridor and also the transatlantic pipeline – the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, which will connect to Greece, Albania, and Italy, and strengthen energy diversity in Europe, including with possible lines up to a place like Bulgaria or elsewhere.
Cyprus is also on our agenda here today. The United States and Turkey both support the UN-led negotiations to reunify the island as a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. Now, this is a problem that just has gone on for far too long, and it is begging for international efforts to try to help bring about a resolution, a lasting settlement. We hope together – and I talked with Mevlut’s predecessor, Ahmet Davutoglu, at great length about this, now the prime minister – we believe that the parties can make real and lasting progress in the year 2015. And that would be very positive for the region, and obviously a terrific boost in opportunity for a better life for all Cypriots.
As I’ve often said, foreign policy and economic policy are absolutely inseparable, and this is reflected in the U.S.-Turkey relationship. This coming November, leaders from around the world will assemble in Antalya for the annual summit of the G-20. And Turkey is currently serving as president of that meeting. In the past decade, the U.S.-Turkey trade has doubled, and I’m confident that we can and we will do a lot more in the future in order to strengthen our commercial ties.
Let me just say that the United States and Turkey are at our best when we are working to strengthen our democracies, including the fundamental rights and responsibilities that are enshrined in both of our nation’s constitutions, such as free speech and an independent press and judiciary. So as always, when representatives of the United States and Turkey get together, we are obviously going to have a very full plate of issues to discuss this afternoon.
And I’m pleased now to yield the floor to my friend and my colleague, the foreign minister of Turkey, Mevlut.
FOREIGN MINISTER CAVUSOGLU: Thank you so much, John. Ladies and gentlemen, I have the pleasure to be in Washington, D.C. and the State Department upon the kind invitation of Secretary and my dear friend John Kerry. And we are at a critical time for our region – our region in Middle East and also in Ukraine, and also around the Black Sea. And Turkish-American strategic relations are more indispensable today than ever.
As my dear friend John Kerry mentioned, during our bilateral meeting we will extensively discuss a number of important issues on our common agenda. Besides the bilateral issues – trade and economic cooperation and the political – to further deepening and strengthening our political affairs and cooperation, we will take up the situation in Yemen and Syria, Iraq, and the threat posed by (inaudible) terrorist organization Daesh. And we will focus on concrete steps for taking our operational cooperation on these issues even further. And the ongoing crisis in Ukraine and Crimea and Cyprus are also on our plates.
And we want to reach a last solution in Cyprus in this year. And as special advisor of United Nations, Secretary General Eide, mentioned the talks can restart or resume after the elections in Turkish Cyprus. And we are hoping to reach a solution within 2015, and we have the political will. Turkey and Turkish Cypriots have the political will for a solution, and they are – we are waiting at the negotiating table. Here, United States role – active role and involvement is very important. And we see this will in the United States and in the State Department and as well as in White House. And thanks to the efforts and the support of United States, we can finally reach a last and fair solution in Cyprus.
Of course, energy security and fight against terrorism is also on our agenda. And regarding the fight against terrorism, first we need to eradicate and we need to fight Daesh and other terrorist organizations on the ground, particularly in Syria and Iraq. And we need to also stop foreign terrorist fighters flow, and Turkey is one of the transit country for foreign fighters. We have been doing our best to stop them, and we have included more than 12,800 people into the no-entry list and we caught and deported 1,300 foreign fighters. But the source countries should also do their best to spot and to stop the foreign fighters before they leave those source countries.
And we need better cooperation. We need timely information sharing and also intelligence. And our cooperation regarding the foreign fighters with United States I can say excellent, and we can further improve, of course, this cooperation. And I appreciate the determination of the United States on our fight with foreign fighters and foreign fighter flows to Syria.
And Turkey and the United States are the two countries with important comparative advantages. This is what makes our partnership unique and valuable. In the past, we have proved that by working together on any common vision, our two countries can overcome any challenges. That is why I am confident that we can continue our significant contributions to the international peace and security by working together in close cooperation and coordination. Our meeting today will give us the opportunity to confirm our mutual determination and deepen our cooperation on all these issues through concrete steps.
Iran nuclear deal is also on the agenda, and first of all Turkey welcomes the tentative deal with Iran. And I appreciate Secretary Kerry for his tireless efforts and personal contribution to these achievements. And Turkey always for a political solution and we will be supporting the process. And we hope that by the end of June there will be a comprehensive deal, and I’m sure my dear friend Secretary Kerry will continue playing his important role to make that deal with Iran. We know that it is not easy, but we shouldn’t underestimate the achievements that are made, but we have to also be realistic that we have to do a lot more for the comprehensive settlement.
And I would like to also personally thank John Kerry for informing me. He kept me informed during all this process. He often called me and he updated me about the developments regarding this Iran nuclear deal. Turkey is against nuclear weapons. Turkey had never intention to have nuclear weapons, and Turkey is against that Iran might have – or Iran’s intention to have nuclear weapon, or Turkey is against nuclear weapons in our neighborhood. Therefore, we will continue giving our full support to this process.
Well, we have many issues to discuss in the room (inaudible), and once again, I would like to thank John Kerry for the kind invitation. I’m looking forward to hosting him in three weeks’ time in Antalya, my hometown. I brought some nice weather from Antalya today to Washington, D.C., but in three weeks’ time, we will have – we will also enjoy the beauty of Antalya as you described, John. Thank you very much once again. Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you all very much.