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Abdullah Gul, Colin Powell Press Conference

Aired April 2, 2003 - 06:40   ET


ABDULLAH GUL, TURKISH FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): Colin Powell and his delegation are in Turkey. I am very pleased to see them here. Both our government and the Turkish nation is very pleased of such a visit. This visit is a very timely visit because recently relations between Turkish-American countries were doubted by some people, but indeed they are very well rooted, well established relations way back for a half century. And our government's program makes it very clear that we find these relations very important.
Approximately 50 years ago, started in Korea and recently continued in Afghanistan, these relationships are still on today. As you know, there is a war going on is in our region. Despite many attempts, this war wasn't possible to prevent. All our wish at the moment is that this war will not last very long and the damages for everyone concerned will be at -- left at a minimum level.

As everyone follows, Turkey is involved in the coalition and together with the allied countries acting together with the allied countries. Current framework of the cooperation of Turkey is established by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, Turkish Parliament, in accordance with our constitution. And within that framework, the airfields of Turkey is opened to ease U.S. forces and our cooperation is continuing within that respect.

As we can -- we can see, the countries in this coalition, I am sure the importance of Turkey will be appreciated in a better way. Today's talks included better opportunities of cooperation, especially in respect of humanitarian aid and close cooperation -- further cooperation is anticipated in relation to humanitarian aid. In relation to our points of views in relation to northern Iraq is reviewed and we established that we are in agreement on this issue.

There's no doubt that this cooperation will include the future structure of Iraq. Also, Turkey is the only country in the region, which is based -- the system of which is based on a free market principle. And so this is an issue which is stressed very much -- highlighted very much.

Last, I would like to say this, Mr. Powell's visit has strengthened Turkish-American relationship and increased possibilities of future cooperation. And anyone who has doubts about future of the Turkish-American relationship should be erased now.

And I would like to welcome him to Turkey.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: Thank you very much, Mr. Minister. It's a great pleasure to be back in Turkey. And I have found that our conversations have been very fruitful, the conversations that you and I have had, as well as my conversations with the president and the prime minister. And I look forward to my conversations later this afternoon with the general staff.

Will you be translating or not? Do you need translation?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, no, they are -- they are translating themselves (ph).


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They arrange (ph) for themselves.


Let me reaffirm what the minister said, the U.S.-Turkish relationship is a strong one. It has endured for over 50 years, and we have been with each other and for each other in war and peace over that 50-year period, especially treasure our relationship within the NATO alliance.

Turkey is an important member of the coalition that is now aligned against the regime of Saddam Hussein. We were all disappointed, both the United States and the Turkish government, when we were unable to obtain the approval of the Turkish parliament on the 1st of March for the large package that we wanted to move through Turkey. But as a result of flexible planning and a great deal of skill on the part of our commanders, we have been able to work around that. And we are now deeply appreciative of the overflight clearances that have been provided by the Parliament and the Turkish government.

The minister and I discussed other areas of cooperation, other needs we have now to sustain the forces, coalition forces that are operating in northern Iraq. And we have solved all of the outstanding issues with respect to providing supplies through Turkey to those units that are doing such a wonderful job in northern Iraq to keep the situation in northern Iraq stable.

As the minister noted, we also agreed on means by which we can expedite the provision of humanitarian aid into northern Iraq and construction aid into northern Iraq as the beginning of what I hope will be a very productive relationship between Turkey and Iraq as Iraq, after the conflict, goes about the process of rebuilding its society, rebuilding its country under new leadership, under a new government committed to democracy and protecting all of the people of Iraq.

Turkey will have an important role to play in this reconstruction effort, not only helping with direct reconstruction help, but also by the example that Turkey will provide to Iraq of a democracy, a Muslim democracy living in peace with its friends and neighbors. And hopefully that is the kind of Iraq we will be creating.

We also had a chance to discuss at some length concerns that Turkey has with respect to the situation in northern Iraq. As we all know, Turkey has been concerned about a potential rush of refugees toward the border as well as terrorist attacks that might be directed toward Turkey or an extension of control out of the Kurdish areas toward the south. In each one of these situations, I think we have been able to demonstrate to our Turkish friends that we are monitoring the situation closely. We have it under control and therefore at a moment there is no need for any movement of Turkish forces across the border. We have agreed today that we will rapidly form a coordination committee so that we mortar this closely and we will also develop ways in the next several days to ensure that we understand how we would respond to a problem that might arise in northern Iraq that might affect Turkish interests.

All of this, I think, is in the spirit of cooperation and it shows how Turkey is working so closely with the coalition.

I gave the minister and the president and prime minister an update on the campaign, Operation Iraqi Freedom. It is progressing well. It is a campaign that is being conducted with great skill and determination by coalition military forces. With each passing day, the Iraqi military becomes weaker and coalition forces become stronger. And it is just a matter of time before this conflict is brought to a successful end and we can get on to the business of helping the Iraqi people build a better country, a better society, under democratic rule, creating a nation that will live in peace with its neighbors, that will use the wealth of Iraq, its oil, to benefit its people, and not to develop weapons of mass destruction.

We also discussed all the aspects of our bilateral relations. We talked about the request that the president has put into the supplemental for $1 billion to serve as an indication of America's willingness to provide support to Turkey to take any of the economic shock that might come from this current situation out of their economic system, something for them not to have to worry about because we will be able to provide some assistance through this supplemental.

And we also discussed the situation in Cyprus and our desire to see some progress in the days ahead, even though we had a bit of a setback some, a few weeks ago.

So all in all, I think it's been a very productive trip that reinforces the U.S.-Turkish relationship.

And now I think the Minister and I would be prepared to take some of your questions.



QUESTION: Mr. Secretary...


QUESTION: I think you can hear me. Should I try...

(CROSSTALK) QUESTION: Thank you. Can you give any other -- you were quite specific, but could you give more instances of enhanced Turkish cooperation on the military side. For instance, we are hearing more help in rescue operations. And so far as this coordination, this council or this ongoing body, where do you get the Kurdish input into this? How do you make sure, from the Kurdish side, that there will be no loosening of tensions, no rush to the border?

POWELL: With respect to the kind of support we're getting, our principal area of discussion today had to do with supplies -- food, fuel, other kinds of supplies that might go in. Once we are able to set up our forces in northern Iraq then some of the issues with respect to search and rescue will be dealt with because it could be handled out of northern Iraq.

On other matters, I know that the Turkish government will always act in a humanitarian way with respect to anybody who might be in distress at a particular time.

With respect to the coordination group, we are working on that and I hope in the next several days, within a week is the goal we put upon ourselves this morning, within a week we will have solved the issue of representation within the coordination group and frankly tensions have been lessened. I think the concerns that everybody saw a few weeks ago that gave rise to all of these stories about an incursion has occurred, it's about to occur, things are going in the wrong direction. It turned out not to be the case. As a result of close consultation, as a result of the presence of our military personnel in the north and the control that is being exercised by General Franks in the region and our relationship with the Kurds, we have been able to stabilize the situation in a way that I think will keep the likelihood of a need for an incursion very much under control and a low probability.

Nevertheless, since one can't predict what might happen in the future, that's why we also agreed today to create a process by which we will get early warning of a potential problem and begin responding as soon as we get early warning and how the two sides could work together to deal with a situation that might arise.

QUESTION (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Would you please take a question from this corner? Other than sending humanitarian aid, I understand a request for logistics support from the troops is also made. From your verse, do you think they should complete that, the United States demands, requests on that will be granted? A medical place for pregnant women in Baghdad is hit today, we understand. Is this something to pressurize the Iraqi people to such an extent to break the resistance?

QUESTION: ... humanitarian, in the humanitarian field. We understand it will also extend to the logistics fields and there is a request in this direction. Can we understand from your comments that the requests of the United States will be met? And my second question is today a hospital in Baghdad was hit and as the war continues, we notice that more and more civilian targets have been hit. Can you comment on that please? FOREIGN MINISTER ABDULLAH GUL (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE) people are concerned. We already have been cooperating on that and it will continue.

UNIDENTIFIED TRANSLATOR: ... in the fields or providing foodstuff and fuel and other humanitarian assistance facilities to the United States will continue. And these all will take place within the mutual understanding between both sides. For instance, we have been allowing airplanes in distress to land in Turkish air fields and also for the evacuation of wounded people from the region to be brought in.

So these are the assistances.

POWELL: I'm not aware of the specific incident that you made reference to, but I do know that our commanders are conducting this campaign in a way that is designed to minimize the loss of innocent life or the destruction of property. As you look at these scenes on your television set, I think you will realize that we have been as careful as possible, as surgical as possible, as we can be in going after military targets and going after command and control targets that support the military forces of Iraq. And that will continue to be our policy and we regret any loss of life that might occur, either through our action, innocent loss of life that might occur through our action and also the action of Iraqi units that often fire indiscriminately and air defense missiles that go up and then come down and cause damage within built up areas.

But I am not aware of the specific incident that you're making reference to.


POWELL: I'm sorry?


POWELL: Well, I'm absolutely delighted and it's a great joy to her family that she is now free. And it also attests to the skill of our soldiers in being able to get to her and to release her. I'm very, very pleased, of course.


POWELL: Yes, we always regret loss of life. War is a terrible thing to be avoided. This war was caused by Saddam Hussein and his unwillingness to comply with his international obligations, a dictator who tortured people, who has brought devastation and destruction to his country, who developed weapons of mass destruction. And once this regime is gone, a better regime will be put in place, not just put in place, really. It will create itself, it will rise up. We will help it.

But this will be a regime that comes up -- it will be a government that comes up out of the Iraqi people representing all of the Iraqi people. And we will help this government rise up, and it is a government that we're confident will lead Iraq into a brighter future and create a country and a system that will live in peace with its neighbors and use the wealth of the nation to support people and not to support the production of weapons of mass destruction.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Bill Hemmer live in Kuwait City. It's 7:00 a.m. Eastern Time back in the U.S. We're listening to Colin Powell, the secretary of state, conduct a briefing there with Abdullah Gul, the Turkish foreign minister, in Ankara. We will continue to monitor this.

And we do anticipate any minute Central Command in Qatar to issue its daily briefing. We'll get you there to Qatar when that begins any moment now.

But for the moment, let's go back to Turkey and the secretary of state, Colin Powell.


QUESTION (through translator): ... a parliamentary motion. Is there a possibility of the northern front to be opened...


QUESTION: ... cooperation to take place from now on, will there be a need for another motion? And the second question to Secretary Powell is, have you totally given up on the northern option? Is that no longer an option?

GUL (through translator): Within the framework of today's talks, for all of the cooperation forms, there will no need for a motion to be sent to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey or will be dealt with by the use of initiative of the government itself.


QUESTION: ... and whatever assistance that will be provided from now is within the jurisdiction of the Council of Ministers of the government. Therefore, another motion will not be needed.

POWELL: The northern option has changed shape. Instead of using the 4th Division for that purpose, we have put special forces teams into the north and the 173rd Airborne Brigade. Whether other forces might at some point be introduced or not, whether they'll be coming up from the south, I will leave to the military commanders to decide.

We are just now executing the northern option, that part of the campaign in a different way than had originally been planned. But our planning is flexible, and we respond to events as they occur. And I think we're conducting this campaign in a very efficient way. And I have the utmost confidence in our campaign plan and in the commanders who are executing it.

Thank you.

GUL (through translator): The press conference has ended. Thank you. HEMMER: All right, that briefing is wrapping up now with the secretary of state, Colin Powell, and the Turkish foreign minister. There has been a lot of attention given to the northern front.

And earlier today, Colin Powell did express, in fact 15 minutes ago if you were watching, the amount of disappointment the U.S. had not being able to bring 62,000 troops through Turkey and entering the northern part of Iraq which essentially took away the northern front in this current war.

Colin Powell, we anticipate, will head to Brussels for a meeting with NATO ministers there, but later today.

But again, that briefing wrapping up in Turkey at this time.


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