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2015-04-23 22:50:28
ImageAmbassador Serdar Kilic assumed Turkey's top diplomatic post in the U.S. in April 2014, after previously serving as Turkey's Ambassador to Japan, the Secretary General of Turkey?s National Security Council, Turkey's Ambassador to Lebanon and other positions handling public policy matters, including NATO and Euro-Atlantic security and defense. This is Ambassador Kilic's second posting in the U.S., having served 26 years ago in 1989 as Vice Consul in Los Angeles. Today, Ambassador Kilic leads the largest diplomatic mission of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and pursues a dynamic diplomatic agenda for the Republic of Turkey. Below, Ambassador Kilic answered our questions about U.S.-Turkish relations and current events. Q: How would you describe the current state of U.S. - Turkey relations?
A: Turkish-U.S relations go a long time back in history, including more than 60 year-old alliance relationship within NATO. Both countries continue to have robust political, military, economic and social ties. As the only secular democracy in the Middle East with a Muslim-majority population, Turkey is an important ally of America and we are cooperating in addressing many of the world?s greatest challenges today.

Turkey, a long-time NATO member, considers the U.S. an important geopolitical partner. We have fought shoulder to shoulder for our common values in Korea in the 1950s, in Kosovo and Bosnia in the 1990s, in Afghanistan in the 2000s and now we cooperate in Syria in a broad spectrum of areas including training and equipping the moderate opposition to bring stability to that war-torn country.
Q: Among the top international security issues, global terror stands out as a threat to nations everywhere. Can you tell us about what Turkey is doing to address global terror?
A: Well, let me begin by pointing out that much of the terrorist activities executed by groups such as DEASH, or ISIL as the group is commonly referred to, is a by-product of the instability in parts of the Middle East. Syria has become a primary breeding ground for extremist indoctrination and training, and until we address the source of the problem, fight the sectarian divide and help the establishment of a stable, legitimate and inclusive political environment that embraces all Syrian citizens, we may continue to face these same threats again.

With that said, Turkey is doing its utmost to fight terrorism. As Turkey is a country that straddles both Europe and Asia and hosts some 35 million tourists each year, stopping foreign fighters who attempt to cross its borders with the intent on traveling to Syria is a very difficult task. Nevertheless, in the past two years alone, 125,000 people have been stopped by Turkish forces while attempting to illegally cross the Syrian border. And as of March of this year, we added 12,550 people from 93 countries to our no-entry list. In addition, Turkey has taken steps to physically seal our more than 500-mile border with Syria by constructing hundreds of miles of fencing and barriers, as well as deploying additional army units and enhancing security measures at certain border gates.

Q: How does the Syrian civil-war and resulting refugee crisis complicate security measures?
A: Turkey is diligently working to balance the humanitarian need to provide safe harbor for the millions of refugees fleeing the conflict that has already killed more than 200,000 civilians in Syria with the need to ensure that terrorists are not using the country as a transit route. Turkey has taken the lead in addressing this issue, which is becoming the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time, by sheltering over 1.7 million refugees ? many of whom have been separated from their families and homes for more than four years now. In total, Turkey has thus far spent more than $5.5 billion U.S. dollars for the Syrian refugees to provide health care, schooling, and other necessary aid.

Q: What are Turkey?s goals towards ending the conflict in Syria compared with that of the U.S.?
A: Turkey and the U.S. share a common perspective on realizing the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people and leading the global fight against DEASH and international terror. Both countries envision a political transition which will lead to the establishment of an inclusive and legitimate government for all Syrians regardless of their ethnic or religious background. Turkey and the U.S. are working to build lasting peace and stability in Syria. As we have done so many times in the past, Turkey and the U.S. will continue in the future to work together to address these challenges.

Q: What is the current state of U.S.-Turkey economic relations? Are there any areas that could be improved?
A: My goal as an Ambassador is to diversify the areas of cooperation and further strengthen the relations between our countries in all fields. Economic cooperation is one of the most important aspects that I want to promote. Indeed, bolstering trade and investment between our two countries is very important, and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker has also stated that the U.S. shares the same approach.

Turkey has a lot to offer to American companies. If you look at the world map, you will see that Turkey is a natural economic hub to Caucasia, Central Asia and the Middle East. American companies should consider Turkey not only as a final destination for their business activities but also as a gateway to open up their businesses to the surrounding geographies. We provide easy access to diverse regional markets and today many multinational companies are taking advantage of Turkey?s geographical position by moving their headquarters from Europe and Southeast Asia to Turkey. In this regard, more than 1,000 American companies have made Turkey their home. Between 2001 and 2013, U.S. total foreign direct investment in Turkey was at $7,132 billion while Turkish businesses made a total direct investment of $ 1,349 billion in the United States. These numbers can increase even more should Turkey and the U.S. sign a free trade agreement. Turkey?s participation in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations with Europe will also multiply the scope of our trade relations.
Q: Can you tell us a little about cultural cooperation and social exchanges between the U.S. and Turkey?
A: Our cultural bond with America is deep-rooted and over the past century, our cultural relations have expanded tremendously. Today we have a very vibrant Turkish-American community in the United States ? close to 500,000 Turks call this country their home. This community continues to make important contributions to the American society. Muhtar Kent, CEO of the Coca Cola Company, Dr. Mehmet Oz, the famous TV personality, are just two of the notable Turkish-Americans. Not to mention that Atlantic Records, which contributed to modern American music, was founded by Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegün, sons of the second Turkish Ambassador to the U.S.

Q: For many Armenians, this April marks the 100th anniversary of events that they are encouraging the U.S. to label as ?genocide.? What is your response to those initiatives?
A: 100 years on, we are still grappling with the profound political, social and cultural wounds that the Great War, as it was called at the time, inflicted on our world. For Turks, World War I was yet another tragic stop in the long series of wars that the Ottoman Empire had found itself engaged in. There are little, if any, good memories that the people, who make today?s Republic of Turkey, have about the unprecedented anguish that befell their ancestors in the years during or preceding the World War I.

Turkey has been a safe haven throughout history for so many refugees fleeing persecution in their land and all the citizens of the Ottoman Empire coexisted peacefully for centuries. As such, Turks and Armenians have a more than 900-year history of shared respect, friendship and cooperation but we have seen a regrettable deterioration of this relationship over the last century. Turkey, for its part, continues to offer an open hand to all Armenians and encourages an inclusive discussion to reach a just memory for all who perished 100 years ago during this conflict ? including the untold number of Turks during World War I. As such, last year, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan publicly acknowledged the sufferings of Armenians during the tragic events of World War I.

However, the one sided Armenian narrative on the events of 1915 is based on demonizing Turks and any fair understanding of that period from a scholar or legal point of view is labelled as denial and silenced. Such an atmosphere makes it difficult for the two nations to normalize their relations Yet, Turkey is not giving up on its efforts to establish an open dialogue with Armenia.

Unfortunately, Armenia is far from engaging in this new process and does not respond positively to the openings from the Turkish side. Armenia?s decision to recall the 2009 Protocols from the agenda of the Parliament is a clear sign of the desire to accelerate confrontation.

On the other hand, ?genocide? is a legal term in international law with a very precise meaning. It describes a special intent to destroy all the members of a community, only because they belong to that community. Also, ?genocide? is not a label that anyone can attribute to any given historic event, there has to be a decision by an international tribunal establishing the crime of genocide. None of these apply to the 1915 events when all sorts of Ottoman citizens perished in conditions of war and there is not a decision of an international court describing these events as ?genocide?. Facts pertaining to this period have not been researched by independent scholars in the archives of all parties, as proposed by Turkey.

This year on April 24, Turkish-Americans will walk for peace and reconciliation with Armenians in Washington D.C. We share similar customs and manners with our Armenian friends, and one day we hope to remember together our shared losses. Efforts to politicize these complicated historical events not only tarnish the memory of our mutual suffering, but also fail to provide a forward-looking agenda that would help bring both communities and both countries together. Source: http://www.nydailynews.com/
Last Updated ( 2015-04-23 22:51:31 )
 
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