Remarks With Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu After Their Meeting

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Istanbul, Turkey
June 7, 2012

MODERATOR: (In Turkish.) We will now begin the award ceremony. United States Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone will officiate.

AMBASSADOR RICCIARDONE: Thank you very much. Our country owes a great debt of gratitude to Turkey and especially to Ambassador Sahinkaya for his tenacious advocacy and support for Americans in distress during the assisted departure of American citizens from Libya last year. Ambassador Sahinkaya and his skillful and persistent efforts on behalf our four New York Times journalists in March of 2011 testify to the durability and the importance of the Turkish-American friendship. At a time of considerable peril and uncertainty, we were very fortunate to have a diplomat of Ambassador Sahinkaya's fortitude and integrity and skill tending to our shared interest during the Libyan crisis. And so Madame Secretary, if you would be so kind to hand the plaque over to Ambassador Sahinkaya.


Thank you very much.


SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you very much, Ahmet. And thank you and your team for the excellent preparations for this first ministerial meeting of the Global Counterterrorism Forum. You just heard from the minister an overview of all that we have been working on. The United States views this forum as an excellent opportunity to pursue our common goal of making the world safe from terrorism, but doing it in a way that is in keeping with human rights and the rule of law. And the announcements that Ahmet just related about continuing work that we will do evidences the approach that we are taking, and I’m very pleased that in just the few short months of its existence, the Global Counterterrorism Forum has already helped generate smart and achievable strategies for combating terrorism, and the United States looks forward to continuing our work.

On a few other issues, I want to thank the minister for the meeting that he hosted last night, the ad hoc meeting on Syria intended to intensify our efforts to support the Syrian people, given the urgency of the situation. The regime-sponsored violence that we witnessed again in Hama yesterday is simply unconscionable. Assad has doubled down on his brutality and duplicity, and Syria will not, cannot be peaceful, stable, or certainly democratic until Assad goes. So even as we intensify the sanctions pressure, because as we were meeting in Istanbul, the sanctions working committee of the Friends of the Syrian People was meeting in Washington, the time has come for the international community to unite around a plan for post-Assad Syria. And last night we discussed a number of the steps that we intend to take together.

I will just mention a few of the key elements and principles that are focusing our work. First, the Syrian Government must implement all six points of the Annan initiative, including a real ceasefire agreed to and observed by all parties. Second, Assad must transfer power and depart Syria. Third, an interim representative government must be established through negotiation. And we are firm in our core principles, and we believe we have to keep faith and do justice to the aspirations of the Syrian people. The transition phase must lead to a democratic, representative, and inclusive government. There must be civilian control of the military and security forces and respect for the rule of law and equality before the law for all Syrians regardless of background.

We know that many still cling to the Assad regime because they fear change more. And we have consistently made clear that we support a positive, inclusive democratic transition roadmap. And we have to bring people to that vision and, in effect, move them away from the Assad regime so that they can’t imagine a better future for themselves and Syria.

And secondly, we have to unite the international community behind a plan that is achievable and keeps faith with those inside Syria who are protesting and demonstrating, suffering, and dying for their universal human rights.

We said last night we are prepared to work with any country, including all members of the UN Security Council, and we will do so so long as any such gathering starts from the basic premise that Assad and his regime must give way to a new democratic Syria, and we have to continue to put more pressure and we urge all nations to impose and implement sanctions and close loopholes in existing measures. And we also pledge to improve coordination among the countries that are working with the Syrian opposition. We look forward to a meeting of experts on this subject with representatives of the civilian opposition, hosted by Turkey again in Istanbul at the end of next week. I will be meeting with Kofi Annan tomorrow in Washington. I’ve asked my special advisor on Syrian affairs to go to Moscow tomorrow to discuss the need for a political transition with the Russian Government, and I think we are resolute. None of us is satisfied that the killing continues, but we are determined to move forward together and we reaffirmed that commitment yesterday.

Finally, the foreign minister and I and also the Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan and I had an opportunity to review the range of issues our countries are confronting together, including strengthening the economic partnership and cooperation on the transitions in the Middle East and North Africa. And I want to underscore – it probably goes without saying, I said it this morning, I think I’ve said it on every trip to Turkey – the United States stands strongly with Turkey in your fight against the PKK whose long campaign of violence has claimed tens of thousands of lives. And again, let me thank the Ambassador on behalf of the American people for your excellent work in a very difficult time and place.

The United States and Turkey have such a strong and far-ranging relationship that every time Ahmet and I get together, we run out of time before we run out of things to discuss. So I’m grateful for the strong partnership we have, and I look forward always to continuing to deepen and strengthen it in the months and years ahead. Thank you.


SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, my friend. (Applause.)

MODERATOR: We will take four questions and we’ll start with the American press. Anyone from the American press?

QUESTION: Yes, Elise Labott.


MODERATOR: Yes, ma’am. Elise.

QUESTION: Thank you. This question is for both of you. A lot of the points that you have laid out in this vision for a roadmap are not necessarily new. You’ve been talking about them since you called on President Assad to step down. So what about this vision do you think is even going to help the Russians – convince the Russians to squeeze President Assad to step down? And if they don’t, at what point do you say this violence, as you said, is unconscionable, we need to move ahead without the Russians?

And specifically for the foreign minister, do you believe that, as Kofi Annan is suggesting and as Russia is suggesting, that Iran should be part of international mediation efforts? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, let me start. And I think it’s clear to everyone that the violence continues; in fact, if anything it seems to worsen. And we have not been successful yet in bringing about the kind of international action that will make a difference to the Assad regime, but I believe that we are continuing to move in that direction. And clearly, we have to reiterate our unity, we have to send a clear message to other nations that are not yet working with us or even actively supporting the Assad regime, that there’s no future in that. And indeed, planning for an orderly transition, we think, will be an important step, because as I said, there are still many inside Syria – and this is human nature – this is totally understandable – who are not yet convinced that there can be a transition that would not make the situation worse for them, their families, their group, their location.

And so we recognized in our meeting last night we have to do more. We also have to do more with the opposition. The opposition has work to do, and that’s why I mentioned that Turkey will convene a meeting of the opposition. Many of us have been working – both Turkey and the United States have – with elements of the opposition. Now it’s difficult for those inside Syria to leave Syria to come to a meeting, but we have to do more to help organize and focus the opposition.

And finally, we think it is important for us to give Kofi Annan and his plan the last amount of support that we can muster, because in order to bring others into a frame of mind to take action in the Security Council, there has to be a final recognition that it’s not working. And he will be addressing the Security Council today and, as I said, I will see him tomorrow.

And on your last point, regarding Iran, it is hard, for the United States certainly, to imagine that a country putting so much effort into keeping Assad in power, and in effect – as I said yesterday in Baku – helping to stage-manage the repression on the people of Syria, would be a constructive actor. And we think that would not be an appropriate participant at this point to include.


QUESTION: (In Turkish.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, as to the transition in Syria, there are a number of examples that I would point to, but perhaps the most recent is the transition in Yemen. It took, frankly, more than a year. It took a lot of international effort. And finally, then-President Saleh gave up power because the pressure, the sanctions, the isolation was just too much. And so he – actually, after clashes and deaths and threats of civil war, he left power. There is now a new president, and there seems to be some consolidation of social stability and security going on in Yemen. It’s too soon to make predictions, but the transition occurred.

So this is a recent example in the region that we can point to. It’s not at all out of the question that something like that could be presented. But in any event, we know that keeping the pressure up, the economic pressure, the isolation, building the case, making the argument to those who are worried about the alternative or supporting Assad, is the hard work of diplomacy. Ahmet and I would like to be able to stand up here and make a pronouncement and save the lives of innocent Syrians. We’re disgusted by what we see happening. But we know that the hard work ahead requires getting more and more people to agree with us that there must be a transition and to help facilitate it.

With respect to our fight against terrorism, we work very closely together, and in fact, we are learning every week how we can be more closely knit together to cooperate and to support Turkey’s fight against the PKK. I will not discuss potential arms transfers that have not been formally notified to Congress, but I will say that the extensive assistance that we currently provide is going to intensify through closer cooperation and planning, and both the foreign minister and I are committed to making sure both of our governments are as focused and coordinated as we can be going against those that threaten Turkey and Turkish lives.

MODERATOR: I think he has a question over there.


QUESTION: Yes. Madam Secretary, thank you. You met with many of the most concerned allies here not only about Syria, but about Iran. With just a little over 10 days to go until your meeting in Moscow, I was wondering if you could say what you expect from Iran and what will happen if you do not reach – if you do not see the concrete actions that you have hoped for. Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, let me start by restating our objective. It’s one that Turkey and the United States and the international community share, and that is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. And that is why we’ve always pursued a two-track policy of pressure and diplomacy. And the United States is committed to finding a peaceful resolution, but as I have said, looking toward the meeting in Moscow, we want Iran to come to that meeting to begin the serious work necessary to take place in order to reach a diplomatic solution.

So we want them to come prepared to take concrete steps, particularly in the area of 20 percent enrichment, and we have said – and this is a unified position of the international community and those of us in this negotiation, which include Russia and China – that in response to their actions, we are prepared to take actions of our own. I am convinced that one of the reasons that Iran came back to the negotiating table was because of the success of our pressure strategy, and I want to express publicly our appreciation to Turkey. This is not easy to work to reduce global reliance on Iranian oil, to unwind business dealings with the Central Bank of Iran.

But from what we hear from many, many sources, the fact that the international community was so united made it difficult for Iran to escape the realization that they were either going to have to come to the table to negotiate or remain very isolated with economic consequences that would be detrimental to their country. So we look for Moscow to show concrete steps that can be taken, and I’m not going to prejudge the outcome. Everyone’s working very hard to try to make it a positive meeting.

QUESTION: (In Turkish.)

FOREIGN MINISTER DAVUTOGLU: (Laughter.) The question is hard. (In Turkish.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: That was a very thorough answer. (Laughter.) I will not add anything to that other than, once again, to say thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER DAVUTOGLU: Thank you. Thank you very much.

PRN: 2012/T65-17