Erdogan: U.S. and Turkey should strive for “model” partnership
On Tuesday, December 8, the German Marshall Fund of the United States hosted Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan for a speech on Turkish foreign policy and Turkish-U.S. relations. Erdogan's speech touched on U.S. President Barack Obama's proposed "model partnership" between Turkey and the United States, the Turkish economy's post-recession strength, and Turkey's foreign policy objectives. GMF Senior Director Peter Van Praagh introduced the prime minister and moderated a brief question-and-answer period.
The United States and Turkey, Erdogan said, share much in common, which "makes stronger cooperation between our two countries a necessity for both bilateral interests and international stability and peace." During his meeting with President Obama, Erdogan said they talked frankly about improving bilateral ties and coordinating efforts to counter political crises and economic uncertainty. On Iran's increased belligerence over its nuclear aspirations, Erdogan was confident that Turkey had a key role to play as "a diplomatic channel in talks." Although his rhetoric on Iran was optimistic, his assessment of Turkey's relationship with the European Union reflected frustration with Turkey's accession process. "They've kept us waiting for 50 years," Erdogan said. "If they have a different view of Turkey's accession, they should tell us about it honestly." The prime minister explained that this might stem from an unfair perception that Turkey is placing more importance on the Middle East and Far East as opposed to the West. Turkey "has never considered the East an alternative to the West, or the South an alternative to the North," according to Erdogan's characterization, but rather serves as "a bridge between the West and the Islamic world."
Prime Minister Erdogan's speech also commented on Turkish domestic policies. Due to the leadership of his Justice and Development Party (AK Party), Erdogan said there has been a "great transformation in Turkey." Examples of this include sound fiscal policies enacted by the party, which helped Turkey successfully avoid much of the damage from the global economic crisis, and national unity efforts, promoted by the AK Party, have proved successful in uprooting PKK terrorists from their bases in Northern Iraq. He addressed freedom-of-press issues, and dismissed criticism for the fine levied by the Turkish government on Doğan Holding. After the speech, there was a question and answer period that further explored many of the points touched upon during the speech.