Minister of National Defense Hulusi Akar delivered a keynote speech at the 37th Annual Conference of the American-Turkish Council. He started his speech extending his warm thanks to General James Jones and Mr. Mehmet Ali Yalçındağ as well as their teams for the excellent organization.
He then touched upon the 70th anniversary of the signing of North Atlantic Treaty and said that “NATO plays an important role in preserving world peace, and it has always been and will continue to be central to Turkey’s defense and security policy.”
In his speech Minister Akar pointed out that;
- Historically, there has been and continues to be a strong, comprehensive and strategic alliance between Turkey and the U.S. based on common values and interests. Although we have had ups and downs in our relations, and occasionally sharp differences of opinion, let’s not forget, we have overcome many challenges in the past.
-Developments in our region, especially in Syria, underscore the need for more cooperation and coordination than ever between our countries.
-President Erdoğan and President Trump have a regular dialogue and a constructive relationship and they both agree on the need for stronger bilateral cooperation in every field.
-Turkey is doing her best to overcome the existing difficulties in our bilateral relations through mutual understanding and good faith. We wish to see the same from our Ally, the U.S.
-The U.S. should recognize this and prioritize Turkey as her main regional partner while dealing with global issues, as Turkey is the destiny of its particular region.
- Turkey is simultaneously fighting against several terrorist organizations, namely the PKK which is the same as YPG, Gulenist Terrorist Organization (FETO), DAESH and AL-QAIDA offshoots. All these pose a threat to our country, our region and the world.
-In our fight against terrorism, we launched Operation Euphrates Shield in 2016 and Operation Olive Branch in 2018 and successfully neutralized more than 8.000 terrorists including 3.000 of the most radical members of DAESH. Moreover, we have neutralized more than 700 DAESH terrorists in Iraq as well. Turkey is the only NATO Ally and member of the Anti-DAESH Coalition whose army has fought hand-to-hand against these terrorists.
-Particularly, the PKK in Iraq as well as its Syrian part, the YPG, continue to be the most serious national security threat for Turkey. PKK/YPG, no matter what name they use, are the same. There is a great deal of evidence to support this, as the key US institutions, including the CIA, recognized this fact.
-Equating the PKK/YPG with “the Kurds” is very deceptive and misleading, as PKK/YPG cannot represent our Kurdish brothers and sisters, just as DAESH does not represent “the Muslims”.
- U.S. support and solidarity in our fight against all kinds of terrorism must be a core element of our bilateral relationship.
-Regrettably, the U.S. is providing the YPG with large quantities of weapons, ammunition and heavy military equipment, and fighting DAESH by using another terrorist organization as a proxy is simply wrong and unacceptable.
-U.S.’ withdrawal must avoid creating a power vacuum in the area, and should be performed in close cooperation with Turkish Armed Forces, which is the only capable and willing allied force available, who must be present in the possible safe zone.
-Because of Turkey’s efforts, the security and stability in the region near our border have improved. Following our operations, more than 320.000 Syrians already returned safely to their homes.
-Turkey also made further efforts in Idlib to prevent a new refugee crisis. Currently, almost 4 million people are trapped/contained in a small region in this province.
-Another/ a very sensitive issue on our bilateral agenda is the Gulenist terror organization (FETO). We wish to see U.S. authorities take concrete action against members of this terrorist group. We expect them to respond to our extradition requests for many leading members of this group including its leader. To understand the security threat posed by this terror organization, one needs to simply look at their actions; primarily at the heinous July 15th failed coup attempt. Unfortunately, the leader of this group who organized this coup attempt, Fetullah Gülen, continues to live in his mansion in Pennsylvania with no consequences for his leading role in the coup attempt. This terrorist group continues to freely operate and trade in the U.S. Gulen’s annual income from his schools alone in the U.S. is almost $800 million. FETO members are also involved in numerous illegal activities in the U.S.. Such as tax evasion, money laundering, corrupt tenders, embezzlement of funds, visa fraud and so on…Given all these illegal activities, we believe FETO should be considered as a national security issue for the U.S. as well.
-As for the 1915 events, politicians and others should avoid risking long-term strategic relationships for the sake of short term political gains. We sadly observe that this problem is handled based on incorrect information. At this point, one needs to pay attention to the report of Gen. James Guthrie HARBORD. In 1919, Gen.HARBORD was commissioned by President WILSON to conduct a fact-finding mission regarding the events of 1915. With his team of 40 people, he took a 58 day journey through the provinces from Istanbul to Yerevan/Armenia. Gen.HARBORD’s report does not support the Armenian claims. The report is accessible in National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), here in Washington.
-The procurement of the S-400 system which will be operated on a stand-alone basis emerged as the only viable immediate solution against the threat Turkey has faced, and contrary to some claims, this procurement decision does not signify a change in our strategic course and there is no change in Turkey’s commitment to NATO.
- Turkey believes that the disagreements we face should, and can be resolved through constructive dialogue. In this regard, we are prepared to engage in technical discussions to address the U.S.’ technical concerns on the S-400 procurement. During this ongoing process, we urge restraint and patience from the U.S. side. Threats, ultimatums and deadlines clearly do not help, and they are not in line with the Alliance spirit.
-Turkey firmly believe that linking the S-400 procurement and the
F-35 project is unfortunate and misguided, as Turkey is one of the investors and partners of the F-35 program, not just a buyer.
-Turkey is currently working with our NATO Allies on developing and purchasing systems for our long term needs.
- In recent years, Turkey has attached greater importance to the indigenous design, development and manufacture of defense systems. U.S. investments in Turkey’s defense industry can and should be a win-win for both sides.
-The Turkish Defense Industry is well equipped to be a partner and a significant player in regional and global markets. Some American companies are already experienced in collaborating with capable Turkish Defense companies.
-Turkey has eliminated more than 3.000 of the most radical DEASH terrorists by fighting hand to hand; helped almost 320.000 refugees return to their homes; welcomed more than 4,5 million refugees and spent 40 billion dollars; prevented a humanitarian disaster and a new refugee flow of almost 4 million people in Idlib. Despite all the challenges we face, we are determined to continue contributing to regional and global stability. In this respect, we attach great importance to our bilateral, multilateral and Alliance responsibilities.
-Turkey believes that strategic partnership and cooperation with the U.S. are vital for the security and prosperity of our region and throughout the globe.
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