THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
BACKGROUND BRIEFING BY SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS
4:35 P.M. EST
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Good afternoon. We apologize for the delay. This will be a background briefing. This is background only. Just to repeat at the top, this is background only. That means all references to the briefing should be to senior administration official only, no direct quotations. We will also have a written statement coming out shortly on the visit. Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me reiterate my colleague's apology and add that it's a profuse apology on my part and ours that we were a little late here this afternoon. That reflects the fact that we had a very good visit, interesting discussions, discussions in depth with Prime Minister Yilmaz and his delegation, which took -- in many cases the discussions went on longer than anticipated, and that was, I think, a good sign of this meeting, which came at an important moment and the right time, with lots of things to discuss.
So the meeting between President Clinton and Prime Minister Yilmaz, which was originally scheduled to be half an hour and actually went over an hour, symbolized the long-standing close relationship enjoyed by Turkey and the United States. Our two countries stood shoulder to shoulder during the Cold War, and today, as we are well into the post-Cold War or the post-post-Cold War era, we are continuing to work as closely as ever to address new threats to security in Europe and elsewhere.
The two leaders agreed to establish a framework for enhanced cooperation between the United States and Turkey, across a spectrum of issues. Basically they could be grouped into five general areas or baskets. These included energy, trade and investment and economic issues, regional cooperation, security cooperation, and the Aegean and Cyprus issues.
The leaders agreed -- they affirmed preparatory work that has been done over more than a month between the two governments to discuss this new framework and to organize it as a way to enhance the partnership that we already have. There will be Cabinet-level and senior sub-Cabinet level involvement in each of the areas of discussion.
On the American side, during the preparatory phasing-in of this program and during the consideration we gave to this framework, discussions were had and an agenda was arrived at on the American side to pursue our interests in the U.S.-Turkey relationship. We think the same thing happened on the Turkish side. So there are, in effect, quite a number of detailed discussions underway within both governments which will then now be put into effect as this enhanced dialogue begins.
It was agreed that Secretary Albright and her counterpart, Foreign Minister Cem, will also meet this summer to do a midyear review of the progress we're making in this dialogue. President Clinton and Prime Minister Yilmaz I believe hope and plan to get together then sometime late in 1998 to take another look and a review of the agenda that we've set forward today after a year.
I think I'd characterize the whole set of meetings that we've had - - today we had the meeting between the two leaders. We had a meeting between Vice President Gore and Prime Minister Yilmaz. There was a signing, as I think you're aware, between Boeing and the Turkish airlines. We had a working luncheon hosted by Secretary Albright, which included also Cabinet-level participation. There will be other meetings at the Cabinet level going on during this meeting. I think this represents a solid step forward in U.S.-Turkish relations.
Let me just give you a couple -- just an indication of the kinds of practical details -- or practical issues that are being worked on in this dialogue. In the energy area Secretary Pena and Prime Minister Yilmaz met this morning, and they signed a joint statement on energy cooperation. We're going to be working actively with Turkey to develop a pipeline to transport Caspian oil from Baku to Ceyhan in the south of Turkey. An inter-agency team will travel to Turkey in January to establish a work plan for 1998. Secretary Pena will also visit Turkey in the first half of 1998 to assess progress. It is our hope that this pipeline will become part of a broader development of an East-West energy corridor to transport the substantial supplies of energy in the Caspian area.
In the area of trade and investment, as I mentioned, the Vice President and Prime Minister Yilmaz today witnessed the signing of a major contract, a contract worth on the order of $2.5 billion for the sale of 49 aircraft. By the way, that's divided up into an actual sale and part of those are options for the future. But those numbers are the ones used by both Boeing and the Turkish side. It is a commercial aircraft sale.
It was also agreed that Ambassador Rita Hayes, who is a deputy U.S. trade representative, will visit Turkey during the month of January. And she is going to address, with a small team, increased bilateral trade opportunities. This will offer a chance to discuss with Turkey concerns that they have -- concerns and interests that they have in the trade area, and to raise our own desire to increase trade access for the United States.
Our Treasury Department has agreed -- the Treasury Department already conducts a very good dialogue with Turkey under the auspices of the Joint Economic Council, which met recently -- before today's meetings, it had met in Washington. They have agreed to enhance these consultations with Turkey and with the IMF to track and try to advance economic reform in Turkey. Senior Treasury and trade officials will visit Turkey in early 1998 to discuss how to improve trade cooperation and to assist in developing a serious economic reform plan.
In the area of regional cooperation, it's really because Turkey is in the strategic location that we know it is, and hinges -- is a kind of strategic hinge to many important areas, strategically important areas. The discussions of regional cooperation which will be conducted at the under secretary for political affairs level -- I believe that's right on both sides, isn't it?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: As well as by senior experts.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And senior experts, yes. With some travel back and forth and also an effort to enhance the already very strong level of discussion and consultation that occurs day by day, much of it under the auspices of Ambassador Parris's embassy, much of it here in Washington.
But there are a number of areas that will go into that. One is the coalition's effort to maintain pressure on Saddam Hussein and to protect the Kurdish people of northern Iraq; support for the Middle East peace process and strong Turkish-Israeli ties; countering narcotics trafficking, terrorism, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the region.
That's just an indicative list of the kinds of regional issues that will come under discussion.
In the area of security cooperation, the Defense Department -- and there was a meeting, again yesterday, between Secretary of Defense Cohen and Prime Minister Yilmaz and his team. They're going to work with the Turkish -- we're going to work with the Turkish Ministry of Defense and the Turkish military to intensify consultations on mutual regional interests, including, again, weapons of mass destruction and cooperation against Saddam Hussein.
We will also be looking at ways to increase cooperation in international efforts to bring peace to the Balkans and to increase Turkey's participation in NATO's Partnership for Peace program.
The two leaders discussed the possibility of Turkey purchasing U.S.-built helicopters, but neither country has decided to proceed either with license or sale.
Q I'm sorry, could I clarify that? Do you mean a marketing license or an export --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The first step in these processes is a marketing license, which there's been no decision on that or obviously on a sales license. But there was a good discussion of the whole question.
Q Do you expect something to take place before the December 31st deadline?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, we're looking at this very seriously. There is a time factor. And I think both sides emerged from the meetings today with a clearer understanding of one another's approaches, but no decisions were taken.
Let me just continue, and you'll have a chance for some questions, please.
In the area of Cyprus and the Aegean region, President Clinton and Secretary Albright, Secretary Cohen, all expressed their hope and their desire that we can move from tension towards peaceful resolution of the existing differences between the countries and between the parties in the case of the Cyprus question, and reaffirmed American willingness to play a positive role in a solution, along with the United Nations, the European Union, and others who have an active interest in moving towards peaceful resolutions both in the Aegean -- in Cyprus and to a reduction of tensions in the Aegean.
The President's Special Emissary, Ambassador Holbrooke, who also met with Prime Minister Yilmaz and his team earlier during this visit, is going to continue his efforts to resolve the differences separating the two communities on Cyprus, aiming towards a bicommunal, bizonal solution. He, along with other senior officials, are also working more broadly toward improved relations between Greece and Turkey.
So, in sum, we see Turkey as a valuable ally and a friend of the United States. Underlying our strong cooperative relationship with Ankara is the decision Turkey made long ago to face west, tying its long-term security and prosperity to the West and to western policies -- democracy and open, free markets.
Just as we welcome Turkey joining NATO and the OSCE, we support its EU candidacy and we will continue to encourage Turkish participation in European institutions.
I would say another area, which I know is of interest to you, as it is of interest to us and has been in this relationship, is the area of human rights, where the leaders -- President Clinton and Prime Minister Yilmaz, Secretary Albright and Prime Minister Yilmaz -- had a candid discussion about the challenges faced by Prime Minister Yilmaz's government and heard Prime Minister Yilmaz affirm that human rights is a top priority of his government. In the working luncheon with Secretary Albright, the Secretary of State suggested the possibility that Assistant Secretary of State John Shattuck, who is responsible for the human rights -- Assistant Secretary for Human Rights at the State Department -- it might be useful for him to visit Turkey. Prime Minister Yilmaz responded immediately by issuing an invitation to Assistant Secretary Shattuck to do just that.
We thought that that, as well as broader statements that Prime Minister Yilmaz made about his own and his government's and his nation's attachment to human rights and to advancing progress on human rights in Turkey were very positive.
Q Could you spell his name for those of us who don't know it?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Shattuck, S-h-a-t-t-u-c-k.
Q His title again?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Assistant Secretary for Human Rights -- there we go, for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.
I'm coming to the end of this. I just want to tell you a little bit more about the meeting with the Vice President. The Vice President and Prime Minister Yilmaz concentrated on energy issues, especially again the development of this East-West Caspian Energy Transport Corridor. There was a large measure of agreement on the importance of that and the desire of our two nations to cooperate with other nations in making that a reality in the period ahead.
Prime Minister Yilmaz is going to meet this evening with Commerce Secretary Daley, who is also going to be visiting Turkey, and there he will be establishing a U.S.-Turkish business roundtable -- what are we calling that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Development council.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Development council, thank you. And pursuing as well discussions about joint venturing and other business development between the U.S. and Turkey.
With that, why don't I end this part of it, and my colleague and I will take a few of your questions -- late on this Friday afternoon.
Q Vice President Gore said right after the signing ceremony on Boeing --
Q Could you repeat the questions? We can't hear them.
Q Gore said after the signing ceremony that he expected Turkey to continue its efforts to join the European Union. Did Prime Minister Yilmaz make any commitments to the President or the Vice President that Turkey will not follow through on its threat to withdraw from the process of seeking membership in the EU?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't think it's a secret that Turkey was disappointed by aspects of the results of the December 12-13 EU summit. He shared his concerns with President Clinton and with the other leaders, and in the other meetings. From our point of view, we encouraged taking a long-term look at this. We continue to believe that Turkey does have a European vocation and that it should move towards eventual full membership in the European Union. It's not a question that we will decide, but that is a position that we have taken with the European Union, with Turkey. And Prime Minister Yilmaz confirmed that he has not closed the door on those discussions despite having some disappointments.
Q The issue of losses Turkey suffered in the aftermath of the Gulf War, which Turkish leaders brought up in many platforms, were raised, and some solutions were suggested to compensate for those losses?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The issue came up, as it does in most U.S.-Turkish discussions of this sort. And I think that there is an understanding and appreciation on the part of the United States, which we expressed on this, as we have on previous occasions, for Turkey's willingness to cooperate, despite these losses, with us on issues relating to Iraq. The specifics of how this might be addressed was not something that the two leaders discussed.
Q What kind of specific advice did the President have on the Aegean question? And was the Hague, the International Court of Justice mentioned?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Certainly the two leaders spent some time talking about the situation in the Aegean, and relations between Greece and Turkey. And I think the Prime Minister is leaving with a sound appreciation of the importance that the President attaches to finding ways, practical ways to relieve tensions in the region and ultimately to resolve some of the issues that underlie them.
Q A follow-up on the same issue. The U.S. has been on the record saying that it supports the idea of going to the International Court of Justice for the Amia issue to be resolved. Do you detect any sign on the Turkish side that there is willingness to move in that direction now?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think that what we heard from the Turkish side essentially reflected positions that the Turkish side has taken in the past, obviously. There was some discussion about modalities for resolving some of these issues, but I would say that there were not breakthroughs in these discussions.
Q You mentioned two possible meetings between Secretary Albright and Mr. Cem and also President Clinton and -- in the next year. Do you mean that both Secretary Albright and President Clinton will be travelling to Turkey or to the region, or here?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Secretary Albright has accepted an invitation to go to Turkey, probably sometime next summer. The modalities of a possible meeting between the Prime Minister and President were not discussed in detail, but the President did suggest it would be useful for the two of them to get together sometime next year, if their schedules permit. We'll just have to see when and where that might take place.
Q Was there any discussion at all about the IMF program to Turkey and whether it should be spread over three years versus one year?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The question of where Turkey's discussion with the IMF are at this point was a subject of discussion between the Prime Minister and Secretary Rubin, and between Minister Tanir and other U.S. officials at the Treasury Department. They were detailed discussions of the sort that we've had throughout the fall with the Turks. Obviously, this is something that Turkey is very interested in -- we're interested in as well. But I think it would be the wrong place to get into a lot of detail on the substance of that.
Q Just very generally, I mean, does the U.S. is -- excuse by ignorance, but does the U.S. support a longer fix, a three-year fix as opposed to a one-year fix?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Again, I think that given that the discussions are taking place between the IMF and Turkey, and given the sensitivity of those discussions, I think it would be inappropriate for us to comment on the specifics from this lectern.
Q Did the President suggest specifically -- I'm going to go back to the Greek-Turkish disputes. Did the President suggest specifically, as he has in the past publicly, that Turkey or both sides go to the International Court of Justice?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The President did not offer any specific prescription. Rather, the discussion centered around a variety of possible mechanisms to resolve existing differences and to reduce tensions. The range -- a range of possibilities was discussed, but it did not get down to that level of detail, nor did we have come to the table with a program. We do have a continuous dialogue with both countries. We work on this through NATO, as well, through the Secretary General -- on the Cyprus question, as well, as you know, through Ambassador Holbrooke.
Q You are saying that they discussed various mechanisms and at the same time you are saying that they did not go into that kind of detail? That's a contradiction in terms.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm saying that we did not offer a specific prescription as to how this would be resolved, but we discussed various of the venues, the negotiations, and the negotiating methods that might be brought to use.
Q Sandy Berger this morning made a statement suggesting a conditionality between the choppers deal and human rights situation in Turkey. Was this how the issue addressed at the meeting?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It was not the way that the issue came up at the meeting. The question of human rights actually arose at the Prime Minister's initiative, as part of his opening remarks. And as my colleague has said, he made clear in those remarks that for his government human rights is a top priority. He reviewed some of the things that the Turkish government has done since last June in this area and gave some sense as to what he anticipated happening over the months ahead as a result of work that is currently underway or anticipated.
Q Did the Prime Minister suggest any kind of relaxation of sanctions against Iraq or suggest that anything be done one way or the other --
Q -- said the United States would support the Turkish economy problem in front of the IMF.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We have a very strong and welldocumented interest in Turkey's -- this government's success in implementing that part of its program which calls for thorough-going reforms of its economy, because we think that's essential for Turkey's long-term prosperity. We made clear during meetings here that we will do what we can to support that process.
Q On Cyprus, there was, last night, very hard language from the Prime Minister talking about the EU decision leading to partition. Did he back off at all on that after the President talked about the need and the urgency for a solution?
And a second question, what was the reaction to his request for a reduction of tariffs on textiles?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: On Cyprus, both the President of the United States, the Secretary of State, and Prime Minister Yilmaz -- there was no difference over the fact that we would like to move towards a resolution of the Cyprus question. And let me just leave it at that. It was not -- it did not enter into a great level of detail about how to do it. We're relying on our negotiators. We have one of our most gifted negotiators. President Clinton emphasized that. That's why he has turned to Dick Holbrooke, who is outstanding and has a track record for it. There are a number of ways in which one can envision this getting resolved.
I would not say -- I drew -- we drew the impression that Prime Minister Yilmaz is -- whatever his dissatisfactions with the outcome at Luxembourg, that he saw that as a bar to an eventual solution of Cyprus.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me just answer the question on textiles. I think that as a result of this visit, there is a better understanding on both sides of some of the difficulties involved in the textiles questions. Textiles is important for the Prime Minister because it's an important issue in Turkey. Textiles is difficult, frankly, for us, because it's a difficult issue in terms of our own domestic politics. But I think the news from this visit is that there has been a serious exchange at a high level on the importance of this issue. The President has agreed to send one of his senior negotiators to address in Turkey some of the issues that underlie this and to articulate some of our concerns with respect to trade barriers and other areas, such as agriculture.
Q Can you talk about pipeline, please. What specific solid steps have been taken -- on the pipeline issue, what specific solid steps have been taken? Maybe something like financing areas? What is it? I mean, everybody's talking about it. Nothing is happening about it.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You start by talking and then you move into action.
Q What is the actions?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The actions have actually been, as a function of -- since Secretary Pena's visit -- at least three very serious, detailed discussions that have taken place between representatives in increasing degree of detail by both sides -- first, during the Pena visit; the second during the visit of the Foreign Minister with some of his ministry experts on the subject; and finally, last week, at the JEC; and then again this week between the Prime Minister and his experts and Secretary Pena. The team that will go to Turkey in January will be able to engage with Turkish experts at a level of detail on how to make this a reality than we have been able to do in the past. So it's building at each stage on progress from the previous stage.
And our objective, as Secretary made clear when he was in Turkey last month, or a month and a half ago, is to see that the initial contacts for Baku-Ceyhan pipeline are let by fall of next year.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Absolutely.
Q That deadline has been given --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's the target, because the consortium will be making some of those decisions. And obviously we have to be ready to take advantage of that.
Q What is the deadline?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: October '98.
Q Turkey is suffering from terrorism. Did the they discuss -- did they discussion terrorism or did the Prime Minister ask any support for the fighting with the terrorists?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There was both a general discussion of the danger of terrorism in the region as a whole, and there was a specific discussion of Turkey's efforts to deal with the PKK and an expression of appreciation on the part of Turkish officials, including the Prime Minister, for some of the steps that the United States has taken, vis a vis the PKK, including identifying it as a terrorist organization earlier this fall.
Q Could you clarify whether strat
egic, high-level consultations
on defense are part of the Turkish-Israeli strategic dialogue?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm sorry, I didn't --
Q You mentioned that there will be high-level consultations on regional issues. Is that part of the Turkish-Israeli military agreement, the strategic dialogue which is part of the TurkishIsraeli --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Clearly, Turkey and Israel have a growing rapprochement and dialogue in a variety of areas, from economic to defense to others. It's appropriate for them to continue that dialogue bilaterally. We have in mind in our regional discussions, talking about a wide range of issues, including, obviously, the Arab-Israeli conflict and Turkey's relationship with Israel could be a part of that, although I don't believe it was discussed in specific terms during this visit.
Q The Turkish-Israeli military agreement -- in it there is this strategic dialogue twice a year, where top-level American officials also attend. Is this what you're referring to? Could you clarify that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This was not something that was discussed, no.
Q Could I clarify something you said earlier about the attack helicopters? First of all, did it come up at all in the discussions between the Prime Minister and the President? And second of all, have you ruled out having this finished up by December 31st, or are you just not ready to tell us that this is going to happen?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It did come up.
Q In the presidential --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. As I meant to mention -- I hope I did -- I think we all left the room -- the United States left the room with a clearer idea of Turkey's approach to this. And they left with a clearer idea of what our approach was. And, yes, we certainly have not ruled out having a decision, a timely decision, given the current timing that they have in mind.
Q -- this preconditionality -- the licenses to be approved in advance before honoring -- giving any tenders? Did this issue came up, these guarantees that orders once the tender is given will be delivered?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think that there is a clear understanding on our side of Turkey's interest in and desire for predictability in this process. The way our system works is that there is a fairly clear progression of steps. The first step is the issuance of a marketing license, and that's what we're discussing right now.
There's not an issue on which to make a decision on issuance of sales license unless an American firm is in fact selected. And that, obviously, hasn't happened yet. So the two don't quite go together.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: In fact, a marketing license -- I mean, it's a technical term, but really what it means is a license to be able to compete -- to demonstrate and compete, take part in the competition.
Q So since he was here and there is --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm afraid we've run out of time. I appreciate your -- I'm sorry, our briefers have to get going. And I thank you for coming.
END 5:03 P.M. EST