U.S. Department of Defense
|Presenter: Secretary of Defense Ash Carter||October 21, 2016|
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASH CARTER: Well, I'm sorry, guys. I -- I apologize. This went this way and that way. But let me start -- I -- I -- I did go to the parliament. I'm sorry you weren't there.
I'm glad I went and I was able to say there, and I think Peter has given me that statement, I mean, first of all, to express the condolences on behalf of the American people for the lives lost in the coup attempt actually in various places in Turkey and that the images of Turkish people standing up for democracy is one of those things that's kind of engraven in the memory of the rest of the world, including the United States, and is a great tribute to the strength of the -- and dedication of the Turkish people to democracy.
Obviously, we're a long-time friend and supporter of Turkey, and so it was important for me to go there and commemorate that.
The -- Turkey intends to preserve the site to signify the gravity of what happened there. And I -- I can -- I hope you see pictures, but you -- it is quite striking to look at. It is the middle of a modern parliamentary building with a big (inaudible) in it. It's very, very striking and significant. So I'm glad I -- glad I got a chance to -- to go there.
I'm also glad that I had the opportunity -- I had very productive meetings, three of them. Obviously, first and foremost with President Erdogan. Also, the prime minister and also the defense minister. And in all three, we discussed the -- pretty much the same topics, and I'll just take it from the top.
I mean, first of all, our alliance activities and the strength of our alliance in general, which we all reaffirmed. And -- and even though there's a lot of attention on, and appropriately so, the counter-ISIL campaign -- and I'll get to that in a minute. I mean, we did mention Afghanistan, Kosovo and other places that President Erdogan mentioned those as a way of signifying the long-standing partnership between the United States and Turkey, and also NATO.
With respect to the counter-ISIL campaign, what I can -- I found in the meetings and meetings that -- discussions we've had leading up to today, that will continue after today, I have a lot of confidence that we're going to work through the practicalities of this very complicated situation we both face in Syria and Iraq.
And the reason for that is that we and Turkey agree on the important principles here; the need to defeat ISIL, our opposition to terrorism in general, our respect for the sovereignty of Iraq, our respect also for Turkey's historic role in the region, and therefore, the fact that it will appropriately have a role in the counter-ISIL campaign in both Syria and Iraq, and we're working out what that is with them. I'll have the opportunity to discuss that also with the Iraqi government in the future. And the United States will continue to work with both of them and keep everybody focused on the objective of defeating ISIL, because it has struck Turkey -- the Turkish homeland even as it has struck the homelands of the United States and many of our coalition partners, and obviously racked Iraq.
I think I'll stop there, Peter.
SEC. CARTER: But they were very productive meetings. I'm very grateful all three of them are making the time.
Phil, go ahead.
Q: (off mic.)
SEC. CARTER: I -- I -- that's right, that's right, and we're just trying to work out the practicalities of that. That'll obviously be something that the Iraqi government will need to agree to. And I think there's agreement there in principle, but now we're down to the practicalities of that, Phil, and that's what -- that's what we're working through.
And as I said, I'm pretty confident on the basis of all the conversations we've had that this -- we'll be able to work through those practicalities in a way that takes care of the sensitivities of all of the parties there.
Q: (off mic.)
SEC. CARTER: Yes, yes, yes -- no, obviously this is -- anything that counter-ISIL coalition does in Iraq will have to be with the approval of the government of Iraq. That's a principle that we and Turkey share, the integrity of the Iraqi state. But I'm confident that we can work things out and that there are things that would very productive for Turkey to do, and we're just -- we just need to work through those practicalities. I'm confident we will.
Q: But you have the agreement on the Iraqis on that?
SEC. CARTER: I think that Iraq is -- understands that Turkey is a member of the counter-ISIL coalition, will play a role in counter-ISIL operations in Iraq.
And secondly, that Turkey, since it neighbors the region of Mosul, has an interest in the ultimate outcome in Mosul. Many other parties do as well, that -- it's a complicated city. We all understand that. I think the Iraqi government understands that, the Turkish government understands it and we understand it. And so we just need to work out a practical way where everybody is able to make the contribution they need to and stay focused on the defeat of ISIL, but do so in a way that's respectful to one another's sensitivities.
I'm confident -- that's the role that the United States plays in this coalition overall. There are lots of local dilemmas and regional dilemmas involved in the defeat of ISIL, and one of our jobs is to, in addition to being a major participant in the military aspects of it, to find practical ways that all the participants can work together. Again, I'm confident we will.
Q: (off mic.)
SEC. CARTER: I'm not going to into what those practicalities are right now. We are in the process of discussing them with both parties, but I'm confident that we'll be able to work out those practicalities.
STAFF: We've got time for one more, then -- (inaudible) -- afraid they're not taking off because of this. So, Laurent?
Q: (off mic.)
SEC. CARTER: I did not ask about the details of that, so I'm not -- sorry, no. I don't have anything more to add relative to what I said. It is clear from talking to our Turkish colleagues that they're concerned about activates in Afrin and further west towards Aleppo, as we all are.
So, Laurent, you get the last one then we gotta get the secretary (inaudible).
Q: Do you think that the Turks will participate --
OVERHEAD SPEAKER: Ladies and gentlemen, please return to your seats and fasten your seatbelts. We'll be departing shortly.
Q: (off mic.)
SEC. CARTER: I think likewise that Turkey will have a role ultimately in the collapse of Raqqah. And then as a -- a party in the region, will have an interest in making sure that the governance of Raqqah is one that's reflective of the population there and able to keep the peace in the long run.
So we all share that interest. We want to get ISIL out of Raqqah, we want to do that as soon as possible and then we want the victory to last. And all of my Turkish interlocutors emphasize that, that they understood that.
That needs to be done in such a way that the people who are -- who have their homes and their cities returned to them are able to govern them properly. So there's another place where I think that and then everywhere else where we'll work through all these practicalities.
But again, I'm confident we can do it. There's good will there and there's shared principles there. We'll find the practical way ahead.
STAFF: Okay -- (inaudible) -- want to get you in --
SEC. CARTER: Okay.
STAFF: Otherwise we're not going to (inaudible). Secretary Carter appreciates Turkey's critical participation in the Counter-ISIL coalition and its strong interest in playing a role in the Mosul campaign. Ultimately that is a decision for the government of Iraq. The United States will continue to work with leadership in both countries to bridge differences that remain, so we call remain focused on our common enemy have -- (inaudible).
SEC. CARTER: All right. Thanks, guys.
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