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Remarks at a Dinner Hosted By President Turgut Ozal in Istanbul, Turkey

July 21, 1991

Mr. President and Speaker of the Parliament, Mr. Prime Minister, members of the Turkish Government: Barbara and I want to thank you for this warm welcome. And I am deeply honored to be the first American President to come to this historic city.

Among the nations of the world, few claim a past as storied as yours. Turkey stands at a crossroads of cultures and civilizations. Here in Istanbul, one city spans two continents.

This city's ancient history is written for all to see in marble, stone, and gold -- and in the monumental grandeur of the Hagia Sophia, the serenity of the Blue Mosque, the courts of Topkapi, and here in this beautiful palace, a treasure house of Turkish art and architecture. Like Istanbul, Turkey is East and West, ancient and modern. For in Turkey, what might elsewhere appear as contradictions are dazzling facets of culture and character.

In this magnificent palace -- testament to Turkey's past -- in the presence of the men and women entrusted with the future of this nation, it is fitting to speak about new and old, about our new world of change, about the enduring partnership that binds our two nations.

This partnership grows out of a shared devotion to the international ideal, the understanding that responsible nations must work together to repel aggression to preserve the peace. From the days of the Korean war, and the legendary bravery of the Turkish Brigade, through the long years of cold war, as partners in the NATO alliance, and today in our effort to forge a new world order, Turkey has stood for this international ideal.

For 40 years, Turkey played a strategic role as a bulwark of NATO's southern flank. The alliance's, and Turkey's, steadfast adherence to common values and interests produced a stunning triumph. Democracy triumphed over totalitarianism in Eastern Europe, and the cold war yielded to prospects for a different kind of world.

Then came Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, an act that defied all that the United States and Turkey stand for, an act that exposed your entire region -- this entire region -- to brutal aggression. Turkey's response as a key member of the international coalition stands as a tribute to the leadership of President Ozal, to the professionalism of the Turkish military, and to the great heart of the Turkish people.

Turkey's actions as a pivotal coalition member demonstrated again our readiness to defend our common values and interests. It proved that our alliance was built not upon the fear of communism but out of a profound, shared commitment to freedom and democracy.

All during the world's effort to use diplomacy to get Iraq's brutal dictator to remove his forces from Kuwait and then all during Desert Shield and Desert Storm, President Ozal and I were in constant touch. There was no individual in any country that was more resolute, more determined to see international law prevail. And once the decision was made to use force -- difficult decision that it was -- no ally was more solid than Turkey, no leader more staunch than your President, President Ozal.

Our work as friends, allies, and coalition partners continues today. Our two nations are part of a newly formed residual force stationed near Turkey's border with Iraq. And all of us understand this force will not stay permanently. But we also understand the importance of sending a strong, unmistakable signal to Saddam Hussein: He must not resume war against his own people.

Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister, our nations for years have fostered a strong relationship. Turkey's stand in the Gulf demonstrated that relationship's strength. Tonight, let us pledge to build further upon our common ties and aims, to strengthen the links our governments have forged.

In years to come, we will continue to back our warm words with firm deeds. Our administration hopes to deliver a $625 million military assistance program in 1992, a substantial increase. We support Turkey's production of 160 F - 16s.

But this new strategic relationship between our nations points beyond simply the military dimension to expanded trade and increased investment in one of Europe's most dynamic economies.

Well before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the advent of free market forces in Eastern Europe, Turkey launched an ambitious reform program. In the 1980's, Turkey outpaced every nation in the OECD in economic growth. In the nineties, as the new nations discover the power of free enterprise, as democracy dispels a long dark era of division and distrust, Turkey can regain its historic place as a trade hub, uniting Europe -- East and West -- Asia, and the Middle East.

Finally, our new relationship means building new bridges, bringing together the best minds in both our nations in the fields of science and technology, medicine and the environment; opening the doors to our universities; opening our minds to each other's ideas, cultures, and traditions. The people of our two nations have known and admired each other as allies. And it's time now for our people to get to know each other better as friends.

A key to this new relationship lies in the opportunities now opening as a direct result of a decade of democracy. Turkey today is a nation confident of its place in the world, a confidence made clear in your nation's opening to the new democracies of Eastern Europe and your growing relationship with the Soviet Union. Your Black Sea initiative, aimed at expanding trade with the Soviets and other nations that border that great body of water, illustrates the promise of what I have called the new world order. East-West confrontation has made way for trade and cooperation, the cornerstones of lasting peace.

These initiatives promise increased prosperity for the Turkish people and increased security for the Turkish Republic. In the famous words of Ataturk, "peace at home, peace abroad" remains a worthy goal for all nations.

And that means we must begin building a lasting peace right here in the Eastern Med. In the past 2 days, in Ankara and on the island of Crete, I have honored the memories of Kemal Ataturk, Eleutherios Venizelos -- two statesmen whose every thought was for the good of their nations, two statesmen who earlier this century made possible a generation of peace between Turkey and Greece.

Once again, Turkey and Greece have produced leaders of vision, both trusted friends of mine. And as a friend of Turkey, let me say the time has come for a new opening to a neighbor and fellow NATO ally. The time has come for lasting peace between Turkey and Greece. After all, Greece and Turkey have been allies in NATO, partners in the coalition that liberated Kuwait, free European nations devoted to a common ideal. So, this sad chapter of ill will must end. No two nations who cherish democracy should regard each other as enemies.

This opening must include movement on the Cyprus question. In less than 2 years' time, we've witnessed a chain reaction, a chain reaction of change that has swept away the Berlin Wall, and with it, four decades of totalitarian rule and the ever-present risk of global war. And so, the message I bring to Turkey and to Greece is simply this: We've seen too much change in the world to settle for the status quo between your two great countries, both, I'm proud to say, friends of the United States of America, both of whom stand to gain much through friendship.

We have seen too much change in this region and throughout the world to stand for the status quo in Cyprus. We support the efforts of Secretary-General Perez de Cuellar to open the door to a solution for the problem. But I would like to tell the people of Turkey what I have told the people of Greece: The solution lies in your hands. Your friends can and will offer encouragement and support, but only Greeks, Turks, and Cypriots can reach an effective, lasting resolution.

I believe the time is right to break through the barrier, tear down the old taboos, and build a lasting peace. When I see the wealth of leadership -- President Ozal, Prime Minister Yilmaz, Mr. Denktash, President Karamanlis, Prime Minister Mitsotakis, President Vassiliou -- I know the leadership exists in Turkey, Greece, and Cyprus to set aside old animosities and seize an opportunity for real peace.

Mr. President and Mr. Prime Minister, members of the Turkish Government, leaders here with us tonight, I am confident that Turkey can rise to this challenge.

A decade of free government and free enterprise have made Turkey a rising star of Europe. Politically and economically, Turkey is today a nation transformed. There should be no question that Turkey deserves entry into the European Community and the Western European Union, and Turkey can count on America's strong support.

Turkey stands as a model to those who strive for free elections and free markets. Regimes that force a false choice between progress and piety -- between technology and tradition -- stand refuted by your experience. Turkey proves that a nation can build a flourishing democracy and a modern economy, can embrace freedom and tolerance, and still sustain its ancient faiths.

Turkey aims at the vision of Ataturk, a vision all around us evident in this city, with it minarets and modern skyscrapers, a vision that marks out Turkey's destiny in the region, in Europe, and in the world beyond.

More than 30 years ago, President Eisenhower came to your country on a pilgrimage of freedom, a visit that I know some may remember. And in the generations since then, Turkey turned promise into prosperity, creating a future few would have thought possible. But for all that has changed, one fundamental fact remains the same: In the words of Eisenhower: "No power on Earth, no evil, no threat, can frustrate a people of your spirit."

Once again, I thank all of you for the warm welcome that Barbara and I have received in Ankara and here in this fantastic city of Istanbul. May our two nations always work to preserve peace, freedom, and prosperity. And may God bless the people of Turkey. Thank you all very, very much.

Note: President Bush spoke at 8:21 p.m. in the dining room of Dolmabahce Palace. In his remarks, he referred to Kaya Erdem, Speaker of the Turkish Parliament; Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz of Turkey; President Saddam Hussein of Iraq; Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar de la Guerra of the United Nations; Rauf Denktash, leader of the Turkish Cypriot community; President Constantinos Karamanlis and Prime Minister Constantinos Mitsotakis of Greece; and President George Vassiliou of Cyprus. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

George Bush, Remarks at a Dinner Hosted By President Turgut Ozal in Istanbul, Turkey Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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