Chair­man Says U.S.-Turkish Rela­tion­ship ‘Very Strong’

By Air Force Mas­ter Sgt. Adam M. Stump
Spe­cial to Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice

Wrap­ping up his first vis­it to Turkey as chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff here yes­ter­day, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said he and Turk­ish lead­ers reaf­firmed “a very strong mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary rela­tion­ship.”

Dur­ing the two-day vis­it, Mullen met with Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Abdul­lah Gul, Prime Min­is­ter Recep Tayyip Erdo­gan and Chief of the Turk­ish Gen­er­al Staff Gen. Ilk­er Bas­burg to dis­cuss a broad range of mil­i­tary coop­er­a­tion efforts and com­mon con­cerns.

The pend­ing Octo­ber expi­ra­tion of a one-year par­lia­men­tary autho­riza­tion for Turk­ish mil­i­tary action against the Kur­dis­tan Work­ers’ Par­ty, or PKK, was a key issue Mullen talked about with Turk­ish lead­ers. More than three dozen coun­tries, includ­ing the Unit­ed States and Turkey, list the PKK as a ter­ror­ist group. Mullen said the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment will have to decide whether to renew the autho­riza­tion, which the Unit­ed States has sup­port­ed.

“It’s obvi­ous­ly up to the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment to make deci­sions about how the gov­ern­ment pro­ceeds from a pol­i­cy per­spec­tive,” Mullen said. “I know the oper­a­tions the Unit­ed States has sup­port­ed have been very effec­tive over the past year.”

Mullen said the Unit­ed States also is com­mit­ted to sup­port­ing intel­li­gence oper­a­tions with the Turks when request­ed.

Anoth­er issue raised was the activ­i­ty of ships oper­at­ing in the Black Sea dur­ing the recent ten­sions between Geor­gian and Rus­sia. The 1936 Mon­treux Con­ven­tion set rules for tran­sit in the straits between the Black and Mediter­ranean seas. The chair­man said the Unit­ed States is com­mit­ted to abid­ing by the con­ven­tion, which requires ships pass­ing through the straits meet spe­cif­ic weight require­ments.

“There was a sense of urgency with the cri­sis and the avail­abil­i­ty of ships,” Mullen said. He said the U.S. Navy fre­quent­ly uses ships to deliv­er aid, such as when ships assist­ed fol­low­ing the tsuna­mi that hit Indone­sia in 2004. But, he said, the Unit­ed States is not seek­ing to alter the terms of the con­ven­tion.

The chair­man told Turk­ish media the cri­sis in Geor­gia is con­tin­u­al­ly being mon­i­tored.

“Should Geor­gia become a mem­ber of NATO, NATO is com­mit­ted to col­lec­tive defense of any­body in the pact,” Mullen said. “All of us are con­cerned with what Rus­sia did with the inva­sion.”

Dur­ing his vis­it, the admi­ral said, he was asked about cross-bor­der incur­sions from Pak­istan to Afghanistan by Tal­iban and al-Qai­da oper­a­tives. Though he would not go into details of the oper­a­tions, he did say the bor­der between the coun­tries is very dan­ger­ous.

“It’s a safe haven,” said Mullen. “We know that al-Qai­da and Tal­iban ter­ror­ists are there and it needs to be addressed.”

Addi­tion­al­ly, Mullen said Turkey is help­ing out in Afghanistan and “we great­ly appre­ci­ate that.” He added Turkey will remain a key U.S. ally.

“Our rela­tion­ship with Turkey is one we all cher­ish,” Mullen said. “We share many com­mon inter­ests, and I’m con­fi­dent we’ll con­tin­ue to do so in the future.”

(Air Force Mas­ter Sgt. Adam M. Stump is assigned to the Joint Chiefs of Staff pub­lic affairs office.)

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