Bread-and-butter issue for sustainable peace in the Southeast

Hürriyet Daily News 17.08.2009

28th Annual Conference on U.S. – Turkish Relations

Washington DC,  2 June 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am much honored to be here today and share my thoughts on the development of the relations between the United States and Turkey.

During his recent visit to Turkey, President Obama underlined the importance of these relations and he said that ‘‘he came to Turkey to renew our alliance between our nations and the friendship between our people’’.

I sincerely believe that our relations will be deeper if built on the shared values of universal democracy, rule of law and protection of human rights.

If our relations are based on these values, we can better attain our common interests and goals.

One of these goals is working to achieve peace and stability in the region.

We obviously need a social ground to keep a “ model partnership “ alive. This social ground can only be a strong middle class believing in these universal values.

Millions of people in Turkey, white collars or entrepreneurs like me, wish to live according to the same universal democratic standards as the ones shared in DC or Brussels.

Turkey has taken important steps in developing these standards in the last 10 years. But the Mr.Erdoğan government needs to be much more sensitive to the demands and rights of different groups.

Universal democracy takes into consideration the rights of minorities and sees secular democracy as the fundamental element of universal understanding…

Unfortunately, in this area, the Turkish government recently sent some wrong messages to the public. And the prominent business association, TUSIAD, expressed its concern about the authoritarian aspects of its policy.

As Turkey gets richer and democratized, a new Middle Class will rise, having at heart to follow universal secular democratic standards and will thus become the best protector of universal democracy.

Today both our administrations want to build a “ model partnership “ In order to build such a  partnership, we need to improve our business relations.

The business relations that I am talking about go far beyond the classical concept of economic relations.

Business and economics are not the same and I am sorry to see that the business relations between US and Turkey are not comprehensive enough.

Recent figures show that Turkish trade with the United States accounted for less than 5 percent of its total trade in 2008. The share of Turkish exports in the US market declined from 10 percent to 3 percent in less than 10 years.

These figures are unacceptable between two allied countries and I believe that there is an unrealized potential for the two-way trade and US investments in Turkey.

It is my opinion that a partnership without business perspective cannot develop into a model partnership. The missing part in our relationship is business, not economics. Turkey has a lot of business opportunities to offer and I would like to speak about the tools available to us in order to use these opportunities.

A first tool is what we call the “Offset” Agreements.

In 1983, the negotiations regarding the supply of F-16 planes to the Turkish Air forces provided that the planes would be assembled in Turkey and that some of the components would be produced in Turkey, this representing the “offset portion” of the deal.

This portion was supposed to grow in volume throughout the duration of the agreement.

This agreement was resented as a model to be extended to other areas of cooperation.

Unfortunately, for various reasons and maybe lack of interest from both parts, this did not happen. F-16 planes are still assembled in Turkey, but there is no offset portion.

A second tool is what is called “Strategic Alliance” Agreements.

We have only one example, it is the agreement between General Electric and Tülomsaş, dated December 30, 2007.

Under this agreement, Tülomsaş is assembling General Electric locomotives in Turkey and 35% of the components are made in Turkey. This part is supposed to reach 50% in a few years.

The difference with the Offset Agreements being that this type of agreement provides for a sharing of the profits, so there is an incentive for cooperation.

This is what makes such agreement “strategic”: both parts have to cooperate in order to create a profit.

Another positive aspect of this deal is that while the Turkish side is a public owned institution, the US side is a private one.

It is a fairly new tool; let us see how it develops.

The last tool is what we call the Qualified Industrial Zone or QIZ.

In my opinion, it has the most significant potential and I will put more emphasis on it.

The QIZ project between our two countries goes back to the year 1999 when negotiations between the US and Turkey started in order to establish QIZs in Turkey. The project, however, never materialized.

While the Jordan QIZ program was extended to all manufactured goods, the version proposed to Turkey excluded clothes, fabrics, leather goods, and shoes and these are Turkey’s main export items to the USA!

Due to the lack of political persistency from both sides, Turkey was excluded from the benefits of such a program while in the same period the QIZs with Jordan and Egypt flourished.

In that period, I mean end of the 90’s, the economic relations between the US and Turkey weakened…

Today, encouraged by the new political climate created by President Obama administration, the two countries have a significant interest for partnership. There are, of course, challenges, one of them being the stabilization of Iraq and let’s limit ourselves to Northern Iraq.

Turkey and the US could launch a QIZ project which would also include the Northern Kurdish part of Iraq. The QIZ social impact being much greater than its economic impact, it would help restore peace and prosperity in the region.

It would greatly contribute to strengthen its security as well as its development.

There would be many benefits from such a project:

1. It would help Turkey in its fight against the PKK terrorism in the southern part of the   country as it will create jobs in the region. (GAP region) Sout-East Anatolian Project

2. It would strengthen the business dimension of the Turkish-US relations.

3. It would help the development of the private sector in Northern Iraq.

4. It work help also dialog with Israel to have input for production from  that region

I therefore think that all the efforts of our business communities should  focus on the development of such a smart project which will bring smart pover –as the lacksmith

which will open many problems such as  ( security, social, political, economical, regional, international)

At the end of this presentation, I would like to refer to former President Harry   Truman’s words.

He once said that “America was not built on fear.  America was built on courage, on imagination, and unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.”

Following his vision, we need to build and strenghten our countries relations with courage, imagination and unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.

Washington Post

Admirers, Hopeful of Change, Await U.S. President in Turkey

By Kevin Sullivan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, April 5, 2009; A01

ANKARA, Turkey, April 4 — Shoe shiner Kasim Kirsakal sat outside a mosque, directly across from a bank using a poster of President Obama to promote low-interest loans.

“Obama is trustworthy; that’s why people like those ads,” he said, referring to Garanti Bank’s poster campaign and its popular television spot, in which an Obama look-alike promotes the bank at a mock White House news conference.

When Obama arrives in Turkey on Sunday night for a two-day visit to this capital city and Istanbul, he will find a nation of nearly 72 million Muslims almost giddy at the prospect of improved relations with the United States after years of tension with the Bush administration.

“Obama is going to just mesmerize people,” said Ali Carkoglu, professor of political science at Sabanci University in Istanbul. “He’s going to be a rock star.”

By making a high-profile visit to this proudly secular, predominantly Muslim nation on his first overseas trip, Obama is signaling Turkey’s strategic importance as a bridge between the West and the Middle East.

Turkey, which borders Greece and Bulgaria to the west and Syria, Iraq, Iran, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia to the east, is an increasingly active player in nearly every major issue affecting U.S. relations in the region.

It is a member of NATO and the Group of 20 leading economies; it holds a rotating seat on the U.N. Security Council (for the first time since 1961); and it is pressing to join the European Union.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government has been deeply involved in dialogue between Israel and Syria, and with Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, where it has about 1,200 troops deployed as part of a NATO force. Incirlik, a U.S. air base in southern Turkey, is a key staging area for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Turkey is also a critical part of the supply route for energy reserves flowing from the Caspian Sea to Western markets. Dependent on Iran for much of its oil, Turkey is a valuable partner as Washington looks to engage Tehran.

“During the Bush administration, we had some different views. But now we have identical policies with the Obama administration,” said Ahmet Davutoglu, Erdogan’s chief foreign policy adviser, who called Obama’s visit “historic.”

“If you look at the agendas of the two countries, it is almost the same,” he said. “Our experience in the region and their new approach are very compatible.”

During his visit, Obama will address the Turkish parliament — the first U.S. president to do so since Bill Clinton in 1999 — and meet with religious leaders. He will also make high-profile visits to the tomb of secularist national founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in Ankara and the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, one of Islam’s most stunning sites.

Ahead of Obama’s arrival, several thousand demonstrators staged protests Saturday against the United States and NATO in Ankara and Istanbul, many of them shouting “Yankee, go home.” But, in interviews in the Bahceli neighborhood of Ankara, where smartly dressed shoppers sipped Starbucks coffee and the less well-to-do hawked fish from their trucks, nearly every mention of Obama was greeted with a smile.

Yurdagul Oguzman, 29, who works in a small food shop, said that Obama “seems peaceful.” And, like many people interviewed, she said her impressions of Obama were more positive than her views of the United States.

“I have a bad impression of America because they are so fond of making wars,” she said. “But I think Obama can change that.”

A recent poll by Infakto, a Turkish research firm, found that Turks viewed Obama as the most trusted foreign leader. Almost 52 percent had a “positive opinion” about Obama, although 23 percent viewed the United States favorably.

“People believe Obama has warmer feelings toward the Muslim world and the relationship will be different,” said Emre Erdogan, head of Infakto. “And his middle name is Hussein!”

On one of the highest hilltops of Ankara, near the stone walls of a citadel dating to Roman times, street sweeper Erdal Aydogan, 44, said Obama was exciting.

“He has a Muslim background, so when he was elected we were so happy — it was like he was elected for Turkey!” Aydogan said. .

Turks are fiercely proud of their separation of mosque and state, and many bristle when the country is referred to as a “moderate Muslim” nation rather than a “secular democracy.”

Carkoglu, the political scientist, said some Turks are suspicious that Obama sees Turkey mainly as a Muslim platform for repairing the battered U.S. reputation in the Islamic world.

“Obama is facing a subtle balancing act,” Carkoglu said. “He has to be careful not to call Turkey a Muslim country that is a role model for the Middle East. We don’t want to be a Muslim role model. We want to be a secular role model.”

Obama also must balance the question of how to handle the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Armenians 90 years ago as the Ottoman Empire collapsed. For years, Obama has called the incident “genocide” and promised to recognize it as such if elected president.

Turks vehemently deny any mass killings, and Erdogan, in a speech Friday in London, again dismissed the “so-called genocide.” Many people interviewed said their opinion of Obama would sour immediately if he mentioned Armenian “genocide.”

In a narrow alley of ancient wood-and-brick houses, Handan Tunc, 33, a mother of two, said she hoped Obama’s leadership could help reverse the global economic crisis. She said her husband’s small business selling socks and underwear had decreased by 70 percent.

“We don’t know yet what Obama will do, but there is something about him that makes us think he will do better,” she said.

Although Turkish banks, which were restructured after a crisis in 2001, have remained relatively stable, Turkish exporters have been battered as European markets have dried up. The country is seeking aid from the International Monetary Fund.

Umut Oran, a member of the opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, and head of the Turkish Clothing Manufacturers Association, said that in the past eight months, the Turkish stock market and the national currency, the lira, have lost 40 percent of their value.

Part of Turkey’s problem, Oran said, as he sipped cappuccino in the glitzy Sheraton Hotel, where Obama will stay, is that relations between Turkey and the United States “have been in the freezer” since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He said Turkey’s exports have quadrupled since 2001, but exports to the United States have dropped from 10 percent of the total to 3 percent.

Oran said he hopes Obama will revive an idea, shelved in recent years, to create an industrial zone in southeastern Turkey, near the Iraq border, for production of tax-advantaged textiles and other goods for export to the United States.

Oran said mass job creation in that region could help calm Turkey’s long-standing battles with a Kurdish separatist insurgency that has frequently crossed from northern Iraq to attack targets in Turkey.