George W. Bush photo

Remarks Following a Meeting With Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and an Exchange With Reporters

November 05, 2007

President Bush. Mr. Prime Minister, welcome back to the Oval Office. As usual, we had a very constructive conversation. Turkey is a strategic partner and strong ally of America. I value our friendship at the state level, at the personal level.

We had a long discussion about a common concern, and that concern is the PKK. PKK is a terrorist organization. They're an enemy of Turkey, they're an enemy of Iraq, and they're an enemy of the United States. We have talked about how we can work together to protect ourselves from the PKK.

We talked about the need to have better intelligence sharing. In order to chase down people who murder people, you need good intelligence. And we talked about the need for our military to stay in constant contact. To this end, the Prime Minister and I have set up a tripartite arrangement, for his number-two man in the military to stay in touch with our number-two man and General Petraeus.

The Prime Minister strongly urged that the United States work with leaders in Iraq to cut off money flows to the PKK. The point is, is that I made it very clear to the Prime Minister we want to work in a close way to deal with this problem.

We discussed a lot of other issues. I do want to thank Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey for hosting the Neighbors Conference. It was a very important conference to help the people of Iraq realize the blessings of liberty. Thank you, sir.

And finally, I briefed the Prime Minister on Secretary Rice's recent phone call with President Musharraf. I asked the Secretary to call him to convey this message: that we expect there to be elections as soon as possible, and that the President should remove his military uniform. Previous to his decision, we made it clear that these emergency measures were—would undermine democracy. Having said that, I did remind the Prime Minister that President Musharraf has been a strong fighter against extremists and radicals, that he understands the dangers posed by radicals and extremists. After all, they tried to kill him three or four times. And our hope is that he will restore democracy as quickly as possible.

And I thank you for your leadership and the strong example your country has set. And I've had a chance to personally congratulate you on your party's rather significant victory.


Prime Minister Erdogan. First of all, I'd like to thank the President. I would like to express that I'm very pleased to have this opportunity to meet after our brief discussions during the U.N. General Assembly.

The focus of our discussions today was mostly on terrorism, international terrorism, and also the PKK and the activities of the PKK terrorist organization in northern Iraq. As strategic partners, we are fighting jointly against international terrorism in the world. As part of our joint efforts to combat terrorism, we spoke about what we can do against the separatist terrorist organization, which has deployed itself in northern Iraq.

As you know, on the 17th of October, the Turkish parliament overwhelmingly—almost every single member of the Turkish parliament—gave an authority to our Government—the authority, the mandate, in other words, to do a military cross-border incursion, if necessary. This is a mandate for a cross-border operation that solely aims the PKK. It cannot and it does not cover civilians.

On this point, of course, we place priority on intelligence sharing. It is important to work jointly and in solidarity with our strategic partner, the United States, because they have declared the PKK as a terrorist organization. And it is important that we fight jointly against the leaders, the murderers of this organization.

We are working not just to fight against terrorism; we're working together to establish peace in the world in general. For this, we worked together in Somalia and Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo. We are currently engaged in a similar effort in Afghanistan. And we are of the opinion that it is necessary to continue to work to fight against international terrorism. I believe that this is what we must do to achieve peace and order in the region. And we have had an opportunity to extensively discuss these issues.

We have had an opportunity to discuss various issues, such as dissolving of the terrorist camps, the capture of leaders of the terrorist organization, or other steps that may be necessary: cutting off logistical support, et cetera. And we believe that it is very important for us to work jointly on a diplomatic, political, and military level and cooperate.

It is my wish that this work that we do take up jointly will yield results in the shortest time possible because this is also important for stability of Iraq itself and stability of northern Iraq, because their stability is our stability. And any kind of disorder or difficulty, there is also a difficulty, a disorder for us, a problem for us.

There is a lot of difficulty in the region in general. And I believe that it falls to us; it's a responsibility for us as strategic partners to work to ensure that we overcome these difficulties and solve them. I have also seen that the President and I agree on these points, and I'm very happy to see that.

With respect to Pakistan, it is also our desire to see a return to democracy in the shortest time possible. We as Turkey have always been against extremism, and we will continue to be against it, because the way out never is through extremism. The middle of the road is the correct way to go. And therefore, I believe it will be important to make sure people follow that path, as opposed to others. And we will share our views and opinion in our discussions with our Pakistani colleagues.

It will also be proper to have the elections take place in Pakistan as planned. And I believe that there lies the bright future for the country of Pakistan.

President Bush. Okay, thanks.

We'll take two questions a side. Jennifer [Jennifer Loven, Associated Press]. Hold on a second.


Q. Thank you, sir. It was just last week that you said again that your administration stands with people who yearn for liberty. How does that square with continuing to partner with Pakistan, given what's going on now and given that President Musharraf has gone back on promises before?

President Bush. As I said earlier in my statement, that we made it clear to the President that we would hope he wouldn't have declared the emergency powers he declared. Now that he's made that decision, I hope now that he hurry back to elections. And at the same time, we want to continue working with him to fight these terrorists and extremists who not only have tried to kill him but have used parts of his country from which to launch attacks into Afghanistan and/or are plotting attacks on America.

You call on who you want. Yes.

Turkey and Iraq

Q. Mr. President, what would be your reaction if there would be a Turkish operation into northern Iraq?

President Bush. First of all, I don't like to answer hypothetical questions. But I can tell you that we—he asked what would my reaction be if there was an attack. Well, that's a hypothetical question. But what we did talk about is to make sure that there is good enough intelligence so that we can help deal with a common problem, and that problem is a terrorist organization called PKK. And we need to know, in any of these actions, who they are and where they are in order to make any strategy effective.

And therefore, step one is to make sure that our intelligence sharing is good. The problem oftentimes is that faulty intelligence means that we can't solve the problem. Good, sound intelligence delivered on a real-time basis, using modern technology will make it much easier to deal effectively with people who are using murder as a weapon to achieve political objectives.

As I said in my opening statement, the PKK is an enemy of Turkey, a free Iraq, and the United States of America. And it's in our joint interest to work effectively to deal with the problem.

Caren [Caren Bohan, Reuters].

Democracy in Pakistan

Q. Mr. President, you've called on President Musharraf to restore democracy as quickly as possible. What will be the consequences if he doesn't take your advice, and how seriously are you weighing a cut in U.S. aid?

President Bush. Once again, it's a hypothetical question. I certainly hope he does take my advice and the advice of the Prime Minister of Turkey and the advice of a lot of other figures. And so that's—all we can do is continue to work with the President, as well as others in the Pak Government, to make it abundantly clear the position of the United States. And then obviously, we'll deal with it if something other than that happens.

Q. Do you have any leverage though?

Situation in Northern Iraq

Q. Mr. President, do we expect any concrete steps from U.S. against PKK in northern Iraq, especially in military way?

President Bush. Well, the first thing that happened was, as a result of the Prime Minister's good leadership, Turkish soldiers were released. I know this was very much on his mind. I know that because he has constantly talked to my Government about seeing if we can't work together to get these people released. And the point I bring up is that there is at least one effective measure for people in Turkey to see that when we work together, we can accomplish important objectives.

And so it's—again, I repeat to you, it's fine to speculate about what may not— what may or may not happen, but nothing can happen until you have good intelligence. And we need to know where people are hiding; we need to know what they're doing. We believe we can work closely with our Turkish allies as well as concerned citizens in Iraq to find that kind of intelligence.

I've assured the Prime Minister that we're working very carefully and closely with people in the Kurdish part of Iraq to help deal with the movement of these people, to help locate and find and stop the leadership of the PKK from continuing doing what they're doing. The first step in that direction was the release of the soldiers.

We understand there's transit issues in airports; we understand that there is issues with money. What the Turkish people need to come away with from this meeting is that, one, the Prime Minister has impressed upon me the seriousness of the problem— I understand it; two, he expects there to be action, and I agree. And we've taken some steps along those lines.

Thank you very much.

Q. Mr. President, did you misjudge President Musharraf?

NOTE: The President spoke at 2:43 p.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to General David H. Petraeus, USA, commanding general, Multi-National Force—Iraq; and President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan. Prime Minister Erdogan spoke in Turkish, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

George W. Bush, Remarks Following a Meeting With Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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