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U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Transcript

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates October 21, 2007

Media Availability with Secretary Gates from the Southeast European Defense Ministerial at Kiev, Ukraine

SEC. GATES: Just thought I'd say a word about my meeting with the Turkish Defense minister. He had a prepared statement, and it focused on two areas. One was the Armenian genocide resolution before the House, and the other was the PKK terrorist activity, calling to our attention what we already knew: that a number of additional Turks have been killed just today.

I told him about our efforts to reach out to members of the House and to try and make clear to them the consequences of passage of the resolution, that we had worked hard on this, that we had some very good help in the House. I pointed out the statements by Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Ike Skelton and also Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Jack Murtha, as well as some others; told him we would continue to work the effort. I also suggested that it would be helpful if Turkey could consider some measures in terms of reaching out to Armenia and pursuing further reconciliation.

With respect to the PKK, I told him that restraint should be confused with weakness, that I thought a major cross-border operation would be contrary to Turkey's interests as well as to our own and that of Iraq, those -- the interests of Iraq. I told him that we should work together on this, that we were very mindful of the reality of the PKK terrorist threat and we're very sympathetic toward the families of both soldiers and civilians in Turkey who had been killed by PKK actions, and that we ought to see if we could work together to try and deal with that threat.

Q Mr. Secretary, the minister told us a few minutes that he suggested to you that there be tangible U.S. action against PKK, that they expect that. How did you respond to that, or did you give him some indication that there was action coming?

SEC. GATES: Well, we've done a number of things in terms of cooperating with the government of Turkey. I think that the first and foremost challenge that we face, as is so often the case with terrorism, is actionable intelligence. And I told him that, lacking actionable intelligence, for them to send a large force across the border without any specific targets was likely to lead to a lot of collateral damage that nobody needed.

Q He also said that he would -- they would like to act in concert for the Americans. Is that a suggestion that it would be a joint military operation? Or are they talking about intelligence and training?

SEC. GATES: He was not any more specific than what you just said.

Q Sir, he said that he would very much like these actions to be with the Americans. What exactly does that mean?

SEC. GATES: Well, we'll have to explore that with them, but I think that I'm heartened that he is -- he seems to be implying reluctance on their part to act unilaterally, and I think that's a good thing.

Q Were you able to receive some assurance from him that they will not engage in some very large-scale cross-border incursions?

SEC. GATES: No, but I think -- I didn't have the impression that anything was imminent either.

Q Mr. Secretary, any enhanced effort by the United States to get actionable intelligence that could be used by the U.S. or somebody?

SEC. GATES: The administration -- the Principals Committee has met a number of times certainly since I became secretary and, I'm confident, before that. In terms of how to address this PKK problem, there is no difference of view in terms of the threat they pose or that they are terrorists. And we've explored some areas in which we could work more closely with the Turks. We've taken some actions along those lines, particularly in the realm of intelligence, and we are continuing to work the issue.

Q Mr. Secretary, the Turkish minister indicated that the prime minister of Turkey would be meeting with President Bush. Was that a previously scheduled meeting? Or is that something new that's come up because of the current situation?

SEC. GATES: I don't know the answer to that. I assume that it was -- I assume that it was previously scheduled, but I don't know that for a fact.

Q Mr. Secretary, in view of the Turkish resolution that passed, in view of this terrible attack late yesterday or early today, is there anything new that the United States is doing? You talked about meetings that have been going on for some time. But are there any new initiatives to address the Turkish request for some U.S. action to give them confidence that something's happening, so they don't have to do an incursion?

SEC. GATES: Well, the key, as I indicated, is developing intelligence that would enable us to find these people. I think that has to precede any action by anybody. Thank you.

Q (Off mike) -- you don't believe that that intelligence is as useful as you need it to be or as specific?

SEC. GATES: Well, I think I've said enough about the intelligence.

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