Dempsey Calls for Increasing US Partnership with Turkey

WASHINGTON, Nov. 2, 2011 — The Unit­ed States and Turkey are allies with com­mon inter­ests on most issues and an increas­ing part­ner­ship, the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said at the 30th Annu­al Con­fer­ence on U.S.-Turkish Rela­tions here yes­ter­day.

Turk­ish Defense Min­is­ter Ismet Yil­maz, left, talks with Army Gen. Mar­tin E. Dempsey, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, dur­ing the 30th Annu­al Con­fer­ence on U.S. and Turk­ish Rela­tions in Wash­ing­ton D.C., Nov. 1, 2011.
DOD pho­to by D. Myles Cullen
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Army Gen. Mar­tin E. Dempsey called for the rela­tion­ship between the two coun­tries to con­tin­ue expand­ing, acknowl­edg­ing that they won’t always agree. “As our part­ner­ship grows, … we may have an occa­sion­al dif­fer­ence or two,” Dempsey said. “That is OK. In fact, in some ways, this is healthy for two free and sov­er­eign nations.”

The biggest dis­agree­ment between the two nations occurred in 2003, when Turkey did not allow U.S. troops to tran­sit its ter­ri­to­ry at the start of Oper­a­tion Iraqi Free­dom.

Turkey is at the cross­roads that serves as a bridge between east­ern and west­ern and Europe and the Mid­dle East. It has had a vibrant econ­o­my as the rest of the region has under­gone reces­sion. With new gov­ern­ments emerg­ing in the Mus­lim world, Turkey — a sec­u­lar state with a major­i­ty Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion — can serve as a pos­i­tive role mod­el to lead­ers in the Mid­dle East, Dempsey said.

The chair­man echoed Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton, who spoke to the con­fer­ence Oct. 31.

“I have to con­fess that some Amer­i­cans, includ­ing quite a few on Capi­tol Hill, have ques­tions about the future of this vital part­ner­ship,” Clin­ton said. “And they won­der about its dura­bil­i­ty, and they won­der about the future role that Turkey will play in the region. I want to empha­size that the Unit­ed States wel­comes Turkey’s grow­ing role in the region and on the world stage.

“Now, we do not always see eye to eye,” she con­tin­ued. “In fact, no two nations — or two friends, or even two mem­bers of the same fam­i­ly — ever do. But we are con­fi­dent that as Turkey assumes the respon­si­bil­i­ties that come with increased influ­ence, our part­ner­ship will become even more pro­duc­tive in the years ahead.”

Turkey is a sol­id mil­i­tary ally that deployed a brigade to fight along­side U.S. troops in the Kore­an War, served as a stead­fast ally dur­ing the Cold War and con­tin­ues to play a con­struc­tive role with 1,800 ser­vice mem­bers in Afghanistan today, Dempsey said last night.

“Turkey has also pos­i­tive­ly engaged Iraq, work­ing with Iraqi lead­ers to rein­force that nation’s emerg­ing democ­ra­cy and help­ing it rebuild,” the chair­man added.

Ter­ror­ists have tar­get­ed both Turkey and the Unit­ed States, Dempsey not­ed, and the two nations con­tin­ue to work togeth­er to com­bat ter­ror­ism.

“Rest assured,” he said, “the Unit­ed States stands with Turkey in this strug­gle, and we will con­tin­ue to pro­vide coun­tert­er­ror­ism sup­port and help crack down on ter­ror­ist activ­i­ties around the world.”

Dempsey extend­ed the sym­pa­thies and prayers of the 2.2 mil­lion men and women in the U.S. armed forces for the loss of life and dev­as­ta­tion of the recent mag­ni­tude 7.2 earth­quake in east­ern Turkey.

“We’ve been very proud to play even a small part in help­ing you recov­er from that,” he said. “You know and can be sure that our coun­try is com­mit­ted to you as you recov­er and rebuild, and we’re proud to call you our friends.”

Dempsey said he is con­fi­dent that the Unit­ed States and Turkey will con­tin­ue to focus on the com­mon ground the two coun­tries share to forge an even deep­er part­ner­ship in the future.

“We must stay engaged and keep com­mu­ni­cat­ing,” he said, “because as our already strong rela­tion­ship grows in breadth and depth, we have to move beyond the world of labels. We need to move beyond the old par­a­digms of East and West, Chris­t­ian or Mus­lim, New World or Old World, and on to build­ing a bold and bright and new future togeth­er.”

The chair­man added a per­son­al note, telling the audi­ence that the day marked his one-year anniver­sary of being can­cer-free.

“Last year I had can­cer,” he said. “You can’t imag­ine how that changes your per­spec­tive on things. It allows you … to see things and empathize with peo­ple more than, per­haps, I’m sor­ry to say, I did before.”

Turk­ish Defense Min­is­ter Ismet Yil­maz attend­ed the meet­ing after hav­ing met with Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta at the Pen­ta­gon ear­li­er in the day.

“The two lead­ers dis­cussed a broad range of mutu­al­ly sig­nif­i­cant secu­ri­ty issues, to include defense-indus­tri­al coop­er­a­tion, for­eign mil­i­tary sales, the com­mon threat of ter­ror­ism and region­al chal­lenges,” Pen­ta­gon spokesman Navy Capt. John Kir­by said in a writ­ten state­ment.

Panet­ta reas­sured Yil­maz of America’s com­mit­ment to a strong secu­ri­ty rela­tion­ship with Turkey, praised Turkey’s con­tri­bu­tions to the train­ing mis­sion in Afghanistan and pledged to con­tin­ue assist­ing in earth­quake relief efforts, should that sup­port be required, Kir­by added.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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