Senior State Department Official on Secretary Clinton's Meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu

Special Briefing
Senior Department Official
New York , NY
September 26, 2012

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: As she always does at the UN General Assembly, the Secretary had a meeting this morning with Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu. They were both extremely pressed for time, so unfortunately, they only had about 25 minutes together. They both left somewhat frustrated that they didn’t get through their full agendas, so we’re anticipating that they’ll have a chance to talk again during the course of the week. They are doing a number of events together, including the ad hoc meeting on Syria on Friday.

So they didn’t get through everything, but let me give you a sense of what they did get through. First, the Secretary obviously opened by thanking Turkey for the public statements made by Prime Minister Erdogan and other senior Turkish officials in the wake of the violence in Benghazi, Cairo, Tunis, et cetera. That led to a general conversation building on the themes that President Obama put forward yesterday morning about the importance of defending and supporting the democratic transitions going on in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as democratic transitions and democratic principles in other parts of the world, notably including the need to stay engaged post-2014, both in Afghanistan and throughout Central Asia, to continue to support democratic principles and push back against any efforts to roll back the clock, both noting the fragility there.

They then went on to a topic where they have been in intense conversation for arguably more than a year, but those of you who were with us in Istanbul earlier in June know, and that is obviously Syria, where we have had, since the Secretary’s trip to Istanbul, a series of bilateral meetings with the Turks. We also participate together in the Friends of the Syrian People and in the ad hoc group on Friday on Syria. They obviously talked about the agenda for the meeting on Friday and the importance of setting that meeting up well. In particular, the essential aspect of continuing to support the opposition, not only in the ways we have each chosen to do so on the ground, but also support efforts to unify them – external and internal opposition, different strands of the internal opposition with each other, especially in light of the very quickly evolving situation on the ground in Syria, where, as you know and as we have discussed before, the Government is making – is steadily losing control of territory.

And then finally in this meeting, the Secretary raised again our hope that our ally Turkey and our ally Israel will sit down and work through the difficult issues that they have together, and Secretary again encouraged that and offered to be helpful to our allies in that, given the enormous number of strategic interests and challenges that Turkey and Israel share, and the value of their being able to collaborate and cooperate on all those things.

So let me see if there are any questions on that.

QUESTION: Yeah. Firstly, on the Turkey-Israel thing, just because you brought it up last, what was the reception to that? Is there any – are there any plans for talks or is something in the works? Are you guys going to be involved in setting that up?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, I think I don’t want to go beyond what I said, which is that Secretary has talked about this in virtually every meeting she’s had with the Turkish side, as she has with the Israeli side. I think the hope here was to try to get them thinking again about making another effort.

QUESTION: And then on the efforts with the opposition, what’s new, essentially, in today’s conversation? Where is it developing?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Let me say – and I think we’ll be talking a little bit more about this when we set up the ad hoc meeting for you tomorrow in a background session, and then obviously when you hear her remarks at the session. But we’ve talked for some time about the importance of the external opposition and the internal opposition unifying not only behind some of the essential governance principles that have already been articulated – democratic principles of human rights and a Syria for all Syrians and all that kind of thing – but also behind a transition plan building off the July 3rd from Cairo or similar ideas from the inside.

So, as you know, the Turks have extensive contacts with various different opposition groups, not only the external ones but now with groups inside – as do we. And a lot of the work we’ve been doing together is to try to understand how local coordinating councils are taking up the slack as the Syrian Government recedes from areas where they’ve lost territory, trying to look at emerging leaders within those groups, trying to ensure that the nonlethal support that we are giving, which is also in the form of communications as we’ve spoken about, can be used to link groups not just on the tactical ground situation, but also in terms of long-term planning.

Anybody else?

QUESTION: I have (inaudible).

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah, so let’s end backgrounder here.

PRN: 2012/1522