TEXT OF PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA’S SPEECH TO THE TURKISH PARLIAMENT
The Associated Press
April 6, 2009 – 11:43 AM
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Mister speaker, madam deputy speaker, distinguished
members, I am honored to speak in this chamber, and I am committed to
renewing the alliance between our nations and the friendship between
This is my first trip overseas as president of the United States. I’ve
been to the G-20 summit in London, and the NATO summit in Strasbourg,
and the European Union summit in Prague. Some people have asked me
if I chose to continue my travels to Ankara and Istanbul to send a
message to the world.
And my answer is simple: Evet — yes.
Turkey is a critical ally. Turkey is an important part of Europe. And
Turkey and the United States must stand together — and work together
— to overcome the challenges of our time.
This morning I had the great privilege of visiting the tomb of your
extraordinary founder of your republic. And I was deeply impressed by
this beautiful memorial to a man who did so much to shape the course
But it is also clear that the greatest monument to Ataturk’s life
is not something that can be cast in stone and marble. His greatest
legacy is Turkey’s strong, vibrant, secular democracy, and that is
the work that this assembly carries on today.
This future was not easily assured , it was not guaranteed. At the
end of World War I, Turkey could have succumbed to the foreign powers
that were trying to claim its territory, or sought to restore an
ancient empire. But Turkey chose a different future.
You freed yourself from foreign control, and you founded a republic
that commands the respect of the United States and the wider world.
And there is a simple truth to this story: Turkey’s democracy is your
own achievement. It was not forced upon you by any outside power,
nor did it come without struggle and sacrifice. Turkey draws strength
from both the successes of the past, and from the efforts of each
generation of Turks that makes new progress for your people.
Now, my country’s democracy has its own story. The general who led
America in revolution and governed as our first president was, as many
of you know, George Washington. And like you, we built a grand monument
to honor our founding father — a towering obelisk that stands in
the heart of the capital city that bears Washington’s name. I can see
the Washington Monument from the window of the White House every day.
It took decades to build. There were frequent delays. Over time,
more and more people contributed to help make this monument the
inspiring structure that still stands tall today. Among those who
came to our aid were friends from all across the world who offered
their own tributes to Washington and the c ountry he helped to found.
And one of those tributes came from Istanbul. Ottoman Sultan
Abdulmecid sent a marble plaque that helped to build the Washington
Monument. Inscribed in the plaque was a poem that began with a few
simple words: "So as to strengthen the friendship between the two
countries." Over 150 years have passed since those words were carved
into marble. Our nations have changed in many ways. But our friendship
is strong, and our alliance endures.
It is a friendship that flourished in the years after World War II,
when President Truman committed our nation to the defense of Turkey’s
freedom and sovereignty, and Turkey committed itself into the NATO
Alliance. Turkish troops have served by our side from Korea to Kosovo
to Kabul. Together, we withstood the great test of the Cold War. Trade
between our nations has steadily advanced. So has cooperation in
science and research.
The ties among our people have deepened, as well, and more and
more Americans of Turkish origin live and work and succeed within
And as a basketball fan, I’ve even noticed that Hedo Turkoglu and
Mehmet Okur have got some pretty good basketball games.
The United States and Turkey have not always agreed on every issue,
and that’s to be expected — no two nations do. But we have stood
together through many challenges over the last 60 years. And because
of the strength of our alliance and the endura nce of our friendship,
both America and Turkey are stronger and the world is more secure.
Now, our two democracies are confronted by an unprecedented set
of challenges: An economic crisis that recognizes no borders;
extremism that leads to the killing of innocent men and women and
children; strains on our energy supply and a changing climate; the
proliferation of the world’s deadliest weapons; and the persistence
of tragic conflict.
These are the great tests of our young century. And the choices
that we make in the coming years will determine whether the future
will be shaped by fear or by freedom; by poverty or by prosperity;
by strife or by a just, secure and lasting peace.
This much is certain: No one nation can confront these challenges
alone, and all nations have a stake in overcoming them. That is why we
must listen to one another, and seek common ground. That is why we must
build on our mutual interests, and rise above our differences. We are
stronger when we act together. That is the message that I’ve carried
with me throughout this trip to Europe. That is the message that I
delivered when I had the privilege of meeting with your president
and with your prime minister. That will be the approach of the United
States of America going forward.
Already, America and Turkey are working with the G20 on an
unprecedented response to an unprecedented economic crisis. Now,
this past week, we came together to ensure that the world’s largest
economies take strong and coordinated action to stimulate growth and
restore the flow of credit; to reject the pressures of protectionism,
and to extend a hand to developing countries and the people hit
hardest by this downturn; and to dramatically reform our regulatory
system so that the world never faces a crisis like this again.
As we go forward, the United States and Turkey can pursue many
opportunities to serve prosperity for our people. The president
and I this morning talked about expanding the ties of commerce and
trade. There’s enormous opportunity when it comes to energy to create
jobs. And we can increase new sources to not only free ourselves from
dependence of other energies — other countries’ energy sources, but
also to combat climate change. We should build on our Clean Technology
Fund to leverage efficiency and renewable energy investments in
Turkey. And to power markets in Turkey and Europe, the United States
will continue to support your central role as an East-West corridor
for oil and natural gas.
This economic cooperation only reinforces the common security that
Europe and the United States share with Turkey as a NATO ally, and
the common values that we share as democracies. So in meeting the
challenges of the 21st century, we must seek the strength of a Europe
that is truly united, peaceful and free.
So let me be clear: The20United States strongly supports Turkey’s
bid to become a member of the European Union.
We speak not as members of the EU, but as close friends of both
Turkey and Europe. Turkey has been a resolute ally and a responsible
partner in trans-Atlantic and European institutions. Turkey is bound
to Europe by more than the bridges over the Bosporus. Centuries of
shared history, culture, and commerce bring you together. Europe
gains by the diversity of ethnicity, tradition and faith — it is not
diminished by it. And Turkish membership would broaden and strengthen
Europe’s foundation once more.
Now, of course, Turkey has its own responsibilities. And you’ve made
important progress towards membership. But I also know that Turkey
has pursued difficult political reforms not simply because it’s good
for EU membership, but because it’s right for Turkey.
In the last several years, you’ve abolished state security courts,
you’ve expanded the right to counsel. You’ve reformed the penal
code and strengthened laws that govern the freedom of the press and
assembly. You’ve lifted bans on teaching and broadcasting Kurdish,
and the world noted with respect the important signal sent through
a new state Kurdish television station.
These achievements have created new laws that must be implemented,
and a momentum that should be sustained. For democracies cannot be
static — they must move forward. Freedom of religion and expression
lead=2 0to a strong and vibrant civil society that only strengthens the
state, which is why steps like reopening Halki Seminary will send such
an important signal inside Turkey and beyond. An enduring commitment
to the rule of law is the only way to achieve the security that comes
from justice for all people. Robust minority rights let societies
benefit from the full measure of contributions from all citizens.
I say this as the president of a country that not very long ago
made it hard for somebody who looks like me to vote, much less be
president of the United States. But it is precisely that capacity to
change that enriches our countries. Every challenge that we face is
more easily met if we tend to our own democratic foundation. This
work is never over. That’s why, in the United States, we recently
ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed.
That’s why we prohibited — without exception or equivocation — the
use of torture. All of us have to change. And sometimes change is hard.
Another issue that confronts all democracies as they move to the future
is how we deal with the past. The United States is still working
through some of our own darker periods in our history. Facing the
Washington Monument that I spoke of is a memorial of Abraham Lincoln,
the man who freed those who were enslaved even after Washington led
our revolution. Our country still struggles with the legacies of
slavery 0D and segregation, the past treatment of Native Americans.
Human endeavor is by its nature imperfect. History is often tragic,
but unresolved, it can be a heavy weight. Each country must work
through its past. And reckoning with the past can help us seize a
better future. I know there’s strong views in this chamber about
the terrible events of 1915. And while there’s been a good deal of
commentary about my views, it’s really about how the Turkish and
Armenian people deal with the past. And the best way forward for the
Turkish and Armenian people is a process that works through the past
in a way that is honest, open and constructive.
We’ve already seen historic and courageous steps taken by Turkish and
Armenian leaders. These contacts hold out the promise of a new day. An
open border would return the Turkish and Armenian people to a peaceful
and prosperous coexistence that would serve both of your nations. So
I want you to know that the United States strongly supports the full
normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia. It is a cause
worth working towards.
It speaks to Turkey’s leadership that you are poised to be the only
country in the region to have normal and peaceful relations with all
the South Caucasus nations. And to advance that peace, you can play a
constructive role in helping to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,
which has continued for far too long.
Advancing peace=2 0also includes the disputes that persist in the
Eastern Mediterranean. And here there’s a cause for hope. The two
Cypriot leaders have an opportunity through their commitment to
negotiations under the United Nations Good Offices Mission. The United
States is willing to offer all the help sought by the parties as they
work towards a just and lasting settlement that reunifies Cyprus into
a bi-zonal and bi-communal federation.
These efforts speak to one part of the critical region that surrounds
Turkey. And when we consider the challenges before us, on issue after
issue, we share common goals.
In the Middle East, we share the goal of a lasting peace between
Israel and its neighbors. Let me be clear: The United States strongly
supports the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side
by side in peace and security. That is a goal shared by Palestinians,
Israelis and people of goodwill around the world. That is a goal that
the parties agreed to in the road map and at Annapolis. That is a
goal that I will actively pursue as president of the United States.
We know the road ahead will be difficult. Both Israelis and
Palestinians must take steps that are necessary to build confidence
and trust. Both Israelis and Palestinians, both must live up to the
commitments they have made. Both must overcome long-standing passions
and the politics of the moment to make progress towards a secure and
The United States and Turkey can help the Palestinians and Israelis
make this journey. Like the United States, Turkey has been a friend
and partner in Israel’s quest for security. And like the United
States, you seek a future of opportunity and statehood for the
Palestinians. So now, working together, we must not give into pessimism
and mistrust. We must pursue every opportunity for progress, as you’ve
done by supporting negotiations between Syria and Israel. We must
extend a hand to those Palestinians who are in need, while helping
them strengthen their own institutions. We must reject the use of
terror, and recognize that Israel’s security concerns are legitimate.
The peace of the region will also be advanced if Iran forgoes any
nuclear weapons ambitions. Now, as I made clear in Prague yesterday,
no one is served by the spread of nuclear weapons, least of all
Turkey. You live in a difficult region and a nuclear arm race would
not serve the security of this nation well. This part of the world
has known enough violence. It has known enough hatred. It does not
need a race for an ever-more powerful tool of destruction.
Now, I have made it clear to the people and leaders of the Islamic
Republic of Iran that the United States seeks engagement based on
mutual interest and mutual respect. We want Iran to play its rightful
role in the community of nations. Iran is a great civilization. We want
them=2 0to engage in the economic and political integration that brings
prosperity and security. But Iran’s leaders must choose whether they
will try to build a weapon or build a better future for their people.
So both Turkey and the United States support a secure and united
Iraq that does not serve as a safe haven for terrorists. I know there
were differences about whether to go to war. There were differences
within my own country, as well. But now we must come together as we
end this war responsibly, because the future of Iraq is inseparable
from the future of the broader region. As I’ve already announced,
and many of you are aware, the United States will remove our combat
brigades by the end of next August, while working with the Iraqi
government as they take responsibility for security. And we will work
with Iraq, Turkey, and all Iraq’s neighbors, to forge a new dialogue
that reconciles differences and advances our common security.
Make no mistake, though: Iraq, Turkey and the United States face a
common threat from terrorism. That includes the al-Qaida terrorists
who have sought to drive Iraqis apart and destroy their country. That
includes the PKK.
There is no excuse for terror against any nation.
As president, and as a NATO ally, I pledge that you will have
our support against the terrorist activities of the PKK or anyone
else. These efforts will be strengthened by the continued work to
build ties o f cooperation between Turkey, the Iraqi government,
and Iraq’s Kurdish leaders, and by your continued efforts to promote
education and opportunity and democracy for the Kurdish population
here inside Turkey.
Finally, we share the common goal of denying al-Qaida a safe haven in
Pakistan or Afghanistan. The world has come too far to let this region
backslide, and to let al-Qaida terrorists plot further attacks. That’s
why we are committed to a more focused effort to disrupt, dismantle
and defeat al-Qaida. That is why we are increasing our efforts to
train Afghans to sustain their own security, and to reconcile former
adversaries. That’s why we are increasing our support for the people
of Afghanistan and Pakistan, so that we stand on the side not only
of security, but also of opportunity and the promise of a better life.
Turkey has been a true partner. Your troops were among the first in
the International Security Assistance Force. You have sacrificed
much in this endeavor. Now we must achieve our goals together. I
appreciate that you’ve offered to help us train and support Afghan
security forces and expand opportunity across the region. Together,
we can rise to meet this challenge like we have so many before.
I know there have been difficulties these last few years. I know that
the trust that binds the United States and Turkey has been strained,
and I know that strain is shared in many places where the Muslim fai
th is practiced. So let me say this as clearly as I can: The United
States is not, and will never be, at war with Islam.
In fact, our partnership with the Muslim world is critical not just in
rolling back the violent ideologies that people of all faiths reject,
but also to strengthen opportunity for all its people.
I also want to be clear that America’s relationship with the Muslim
community, the Muslim world, cannot, and will not, just be based
upon opposition to terrorism. We seek broader engagement based on
mutual interest and mutual respect. We will listen carefully, we will
bridge misunderstandings, and we will seek common ground. We will
be respectful, even when we do not agree. We will convey our deep
appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over the
centuries to shape the world — including in my own country. The United
States has been enriched by Muslim Americans. Many other Americans
have Muslims in their families or have lived in a Muslim-majority
country — I know, because I am one of them.
Above all, above all we will demonstrate through actions our commitment
to a better future. I want to help more children get the education
that they need to succeed. We want to promote health care in places
where people are vulnerable. We want to expand the trade and investment
that can bring prosperity for all people. In the months ahead, I will
present specific20programs to advance these goals. Our focus will be
on what we can do, in partnership with people across the Muslim world,
to advance our common hopes and our common dreams. And when people
look back on this time, let it be said of America that we extended
the hand of friendship to all people.
There’s an old Turkish proverb: "You cannot put out fire with flames."
America knows this. Turkey knows this. There’s some who must be met
by force, they will not compromise. But force alone cannot solve
our problems, and it is no alternative to extremism. The future must
belong to those who create, not those who destroy. That is the future
we must work for, and we must work for it together.
I know there are those who like to debate Turkey’s future. They
see your country at the crossroads of continents, and touched by
the currents of history. They know that this has been a place where
civilizations meet, and different peoples come together. They wonder
whether you will be pulled in one direction or another.
But I believe here is what they don’t understand: Turkey’s greatness
lies in your ability to be at the center of things. This is not where
East and West divide — this is where they come together.
In the beauty of your culture. In the richness of your history. In
the strength of your democracy. In your hopes for tomorrow.
I am honored to stand here with you — to look forw ard to the future
that we must reach for together — and to reaffirm America’s commitment
to our strong and enduring friendship. Thank you very much. Thank
you. Thank you.