Addressing the Turkish Parliament
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Addressing the Turkish Parliament

November 25, 2019

MR. PRESIDENT: Mr. Speaker,
Madam Deputy Speaker, distinguished members, I am
honored to speak in this chamber, and I am committed to
renewing the alliance between our nations and the friendship
between our people. This is my first trip overseas
as President of the United
States. I have been to the G-20 Summit
in London, the NATO Summit in Strasbourg and Kehl, and the
European Union Summit in Prague. Some people have asked me if I
chose to continue my travels to Ankara and Istanbul
to send a message to the world. My answer is simple: Evet. Yes. (Applause.) Turkey is a critical ally. Turkey is an important
part of Europe. And Turkey and the United States
must stand together – and work together – to overcome the
challenges of our time. This morning I had the great privilege of visiting the tomb of your extraordinary founder of your Republic. And I was deeply impressed by this beautiful memorial to a man who did so much to shape
the course of history. But it is also clear that the
greatest monument to Ataturk’s life is not something that can
be cast in stone and marble. His greatest legacy is Turkey’s
strong, vibrant and secular democracy, and that is the work that this assembly carries on today. (Applause.) This future was
not easily assured. It was not guaranteed. At the end of World War I,
Turkey could have succumbed to the foreign powers that were
trying to claim its territory, or sought to restore
an ancient empire. But Turkey chose a
different future. You freed yourself
from foreign control. And you founded a Republic that
commands the respect of the United States and
the wider world. There is a simple truth to this
story: Turkey’s democracy is your own achievement. It was not forced upon you by
any outside power, nor did it come without struggle
and sacrifice. Turkey draws
strength from both the successes of the past, and from the
efforts of each generation of Turks that makes new
progress for your people. My country’s democracy
has its own story. The general who led America in
revolution and governed as our first President was as many of you know was George Washington. Like you, we built a grand
monument to honor our founding father – a towering obelisk
that stands in the heart of the capital city that bears
Washington’s name. I can see the Washington monument from the window of the White House every day. It took decades to build. There were frequent delays. Over time, more and more people
contributed to help make this monument the inspiring structure
that still stands tall today. Among those who came to our aid
were friends from all across the world, who offered their own
tributes to Washington and the country he helped to found. One of those tributes
came from Istanbul. Ottoman Sultan Abdulmecid sent
a marble plaque that helped to build the Washington Monument. Inscribed in the plaque was
a poem that began with a few simple words, and I quote: “So
as to strengthen the friendship between the two countries.” Over 150 years have passed
since those words were carved into marble. Our nations have
changed in many ways. But our friendship is strong,
and our alliance endures. It is a friendship that
flourished in the years after World War II, when President
Truman committed our nation to the defense of Turkey’s freedom
and sovereignty, and Turkey committed itself to
the NATO alliance. Turkish troops have served by
our side from Korea to Kosovo to Kabul. Together, we withstood the
great test of the Cold War. Trade between our nations
has steadily advanced. So has cooperation in
science and research. The ties among our people have
deepened as well, and more and more Americans of Turkish origin
live and work and succeed within our borders. As a basketball fan, I’ve even
noticed that Hedo Turkoglu and Mehmet Okur have got some pretty good basketball games. (Applause.) The United States and Turkey
have not always agreed on every issue. That is to be expected
– no two nations do. But we have stood together
through many challenges over the last sixty years. And because of the strength of
our alliance and the endurance of our friendship, both America
and Turkey are stronger, and the world is more secure. Now, our two democracies are
confronted by an unprecedented set of challenges. An economic crisis that
recognizes no borders. Extremism that leads to the
killing of innocent men, women and children. Strains on our energy supply
and a changing climate. The proliferation of the world’s
deadliest weapons, and the persistence of tragic conflict. These are the great tests
of our young century. And the choices that we make in
the coming years will determine whether the future will be
shaped by fear or by freedom; by poverty or by prosperity; by
strife or by a just, secure and lasting peace. This much is certain: no one
nation can confront these challenges alone, and all
nations have a stake in overcoming them. That is why we must listen to
one another, and seek common ground. That is why we must build on our
mutual interests, and rise above our differences. We are stronger when
we act together. That is the message that I have
carried with me throughout this trip to Europe. That is the message that I delivered when I had the privilege of meeting with your president and with your Prime Minister. That will be the approach of the
United States of America going forward. Already, America and Turkey are
working with the G-20 on an unprecedented response to an
unprecedented economic crisis. This past week, we came together
to ensure that the world’s largest economies take strong
and coordinated action to stimulate growth and restore the
flow of credit; to reject the pressure of protectionism, and
to extend a hand to developing countries and the people hit
hardest by this downturn; and to dramatically reform our
regulatory system so that the world never faces a
crisis like this again. As we go forward, the United
States and Turkey can pursue many opportunities to serve
prosperity for our people. The President and I this morning talked about expanding the the ties of commerce and trade. There is an enormous opportunity when it comes to energy to create jobs and we can increase new sources – to not only free ourselves from dependence of other energies- other countries energy sources but also to combat climate change, we should build on
our Clean Technology Fund to leverage efficiency and
renewable energy investments in Turkey. And to power markets in Turkey
and Europe, the United States will continue to support your
central role as an East-West corridor for oil
and natural gas. This economic cooperation only
reinforces the common security that Europe and the United
States share with Turkey as a NATO ally, and the common values
that we share as democracies. So in meeting the challenges of
the 21st century, we must seek the strength of a Europe that is
truly united, peaceful and free. Let me be clear: the United
States strongly supports Turkey’s bid to become a
member of the European Union. (Applause.) We speak not as members of the
EU, but as close friends of Turkey and Europe. Turkey has been a resolute ally
and a responsible partner in transatlantic and
European institutions. And Turkey is bound to Europe
by more than bridges over the Bosphorous. Centuries of shared history,
culture, and commerce bring you together. Europe gains by diversity of
ethnicity, tradition and faith – it is not diminished by it. And Turkish membership would
broaden and strengthen Europe’s foundation once more. Turkey has its own
responsibilities. You have made important
progress toward membership. But I also know that Turkey has
pursued difficult political reforms not simply because it’s
good for Europe, but because it is right for Turkey. In the last several years, you
have abolished state-security courts and expanded
the right to counsel. You have reformed the penal
code, and strengthened laws that govern the freedom of
the press and assembly. You lifted bans on teaching and
broadcasting Kurdish, and the world noted with respect the
important signal sent through a new state Kurdish
television station. These achievements have
created new laws that must be implemented, and a momentum
that should be sustained. For democracies cannot be static
– they must move forward. Freedom of religion and
expression lead to a strong and vibrant civil society that only
strengthens the state, which is why steps like reopening the
Halki Seminary will send such an important signal inside
Turkey and beyond. An enduring commitment to the
rule of law is the only way to achieve the security that comes
from justice for all people. Robust minority rights let
societies benefit from the full measure of contributions
from all citizens. I say this as the President of
a country that not too long ago made it hard for someone
who looks like me to vote. Much less be the President of the United States. But it is precisely that
capacity to change that enriches our countries. Every challenge that we face is
more easily met if we tend to our own democratic foundation. This work is never over. That is why, in the United
States, we recently ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed,
and prohibited – without exception or equivocation
– the use of torture. All of us have to change and sometimes change is hard. Another issue that confronts all
democracies as they move to the future is how we
deal with the past. The United States is still
working through some of our own darker periods in our history. Facing the Washington monument
that I spoke of is a memorial to Abraham Lincoln, the man who
freed those who were enslaved even after Washington
led our Revolution. And our country still struggles
with the legacy of slavery and segregation the past treatment of Native Americans. Human endeavor is by
its nature imperfect. History is often tragic,but unresolved it can be a heavy weight. Each country must
work through its past. And reckoning with the past can
help us seize a better future. I know there are strong views in
this chamber about the terrible events of 1915. While there has been a good deal
of commentary about my views, this is really about how the
Turkish and Armenian people deal with the past. And the best way forward for the
Turkish and Armenian people is a process that works through the
past in a way that is honest, open and constructive. We have already seen historic
and courageous steps taken by Turkish and Armenian leaders. These contacts hold out
the promise of a new day. An open border would return the
Turkish and Armenian people to a peaceful and prosperous
coexistence that would serve both of your nations, so I want you to know that the United States strongly supports the full normalization of relations
between Turkey and Armenia. It is a cause worth working towards. It speaks to Turkey’s leadership
that you are poised to be the only country in the region
to have normal and peaceful relations with all the
South Caucusus nations. And to advance that peace, you
can play a constructive role in helping to resolve the
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which has continued for far too long. Advancing peace also includes
the dispute that persists in the eastern Mediterranean. Here, there is cause for hope. The two Cypriot leaders have
an opportunity through their commitment to negotiations under
the United Nations Good Offices Mission. The United States is willing to
offer all the help sought by the parties as they work toward a
just and lasting settlement that reunifies Cyprus into a bizonal
and bicommunal federation. These efforts speak to one part
of the critical region that surrounds Turkey. And when we consider the
challenges before us, on issue after issue, we
share common goals. In the Middle East, we share the
goal of a lasting peace between Israel and its neighbors. Let me be clear: the United
States strongly supports the goal of two states, Israel and
Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. That is a goal shared by
Palestinians, Israelis, and people of good will
around the world. That is a goal that the
parties agreed to in the Roadmap and at Annapolis. And that is a goal that I will
actively pursue as President of the United States. We know that the road
ahead will be difficult. Both Israelis and Palestinians
must take the steps that are necessary to build confidence and trust. Both Israelis and palestinians. Both must live up to the
commitments they have made. Both must overcome longstanding
passions and the politics of the moment to make progress toward
a secure and lasting peace. The United States and Turkey
can help the Palestinians and Israelis make this journey. Like the United States, Turkey
has been a friend and partner in Israel’s quest for security. And like the United States, you
seek a future of opportunity and statehood for the Palestinians. Now, we must not give into
pessimism and mistrust. We must pursue every opportunity
for progress, as you have done by supporting negotiations
between Syria and Israel. We must extend a hand to those
Palestinians who are in need, while helping them
strengthen institutions. And we must reject the use of
terror, and recognize that Israel’s security
concerns are legitimate. The peace of the region will
also be advanced if Iran forgoes any nuclear weapons ambitions. As I made clear yesterday in
Prague, no one is served by the spread of nuclear weapons. Least of all Turkey, you live in a difficult region. The nuclear arms race would not serve the security of this Nation well. This part of the world
has known enough violence. It has known enough hatred. It does not need a race for
ever-more powerful tools of destruction. I have made it clear to the
people and leaders of the Islamic Republic, of Iran
that the United States seeks engagement based upon mutual
interests and mutual respect. We want Iran to play its
rightful role in the community of nations, Iran is a great civilization we want them to engage with the economic
and political integration that brings prosperity and security. Now, Iran’s leaders must choose
whether they will try to build a weapon or build a better
future for their people. Both Turkey and the United
States support a secure and united Iraq that does not serve
as a safe-haven for terrorists. I know there were differences
about whether to go to war. There were differences within
my own country as well. But now we must come together
as we end this war responsibly, because the future of Iraq is
inseparable from the future of the broader region – as I have
already announced and many of you are aware the United States
will remove our combat brigades by the end of next August,
while working with the Iraqi government as they take
responsibility for security. And we will work with Iraq,
Turkey, and all of Iraq’s neighbors, to forge a new
dialogue that reconciles differences and advances
our common security. Make no mistake, though: Iraq,
Turkey, and the United States face a common threat
from terrorism. That includes the al Qaeda
terrorists who have sought to drive Iraqis apart and to
destroy their country. And that includes the PKK. There is no excuse for
terror against any nation. (Applause.) As President, and as a NATO
ally, I pledge that you will have our support against the
terrorist activities of the PKK or anyone else. These efforts will be
strengthened by the continued work to build ties of
cooperation between Turkey, the Iraqi government, and Iraq’s
Kurdish leaders, and by your continued efforts to promote
education and opportunity and democracy for the Kurdish population here inside Turkey. Finally, we share the common
goal of denying al Qaeda a safe-haven in Pakistan
or Afghanistan. The world has come too far to
let this region backslide, and to let al Qaeda terrorists
plot further attacks. That is why we are committed
to a more focused effort to disrupt, dismantle,
and defeat al Qaeda. That is why we are increasing
our efforts to train Afghans to sustain their own security, and
to reconcile former adversaries. And that is why we are
increasing our support for the people of Afghanistan and
Pakistan, so that we stand on the side of their security,
their opportunity, and the promise of a better life. Turkey has been a true partner. Your troops were among the first
in the International Security Assistance Force. You have sacrificed
much in this endeavor. Now, we must achieve
our goals together. I appreciate that you have
offered to help us train and support Afghan Security Forces,
and expand opportunity across the region. Together, we can rise to meet
this challenge like we have so many before. I know there have been
difficulties these last few years. I know that the trust that binds
the United States and Turkey has been strained, and I know that
strain is shared in many places where the Muslim
faith is practiced. Let me say this as clearly as I
can: the United States is not and will never be at war with Islam. (Applause.) In fact, our partnership with
the Muslim world is critical not just rolling back the violent ideology that people of all faiths reject, but also to strengthen opportunity for all people. But I also want to be clear that
America’s relationship with the Muslim community – the Muslim
World cannot and will not just be based upon
opposition to terrorism. We seek broad engagement based
upon mutual interests and mutual respect. We will listen carefully, we
will bridge misunderstanding, and we will seek common ground. We will be respectful,
even when we do not agree. And we will convey our deep
appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much
over so many centuries to shape the world –
including my own country. The United States has been
enriched by Muslim Americans. Many other Americans have
Muslims in their family, or have lived in a Muslim-majority
country – I know, because I am one of them. (Applause.) Above all, we will demonstrate
through actions our commitment to a better future. We want to help more children
get the education that they need to succeed. We want to promote health care
in places where people are vulnerable. We want to expand the trade
and investment that can bring prosperity for all people. In the months ahead, I will
present specific programs to advance these goals. Our focus will be on what we can
do, in partnership with people across the Muslim world, to
advance our common hopes, and our common dreams. And when people look back on
this time, let it be said of America that we extended
the hand of friendship. There is an old Turkish proverb:
“You cannot put out fire with flames.” America knows this. Turkey knows this. There are some who
must be met with force. They will not compromise. But force alone cannot solve
our problems, and it is no alternative to extremism. The future must belong to those
who create, not those who destroy. That is the future we must work
for, and we must work for it together. I know there are those who like
to debate Turkey’s future. They see your country at the
crossroads of continents, and touched by the
currents of history. They know that this has been a
place where civilizations meet, and different peoples come together. And they wonder whether you will
be pulled in one direction or another. Here is what they don’t
understand: Turkey’s greatness lies in your ability to be
at the center of things. This is not where East and West
divide – it is where they come together. In the beauty of your culture. (Applause.) In the beauty of your culture. In the richness of your history. In the strength
of your democracy. In your hopes for tomorrow. I am honored to stand here with
you – to look forward to the future that we must reach for
together – and to reaffirm America’s commitment to our
strong and enduring friendship. Thank you very much. Thank you.

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