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Remarks at Lunch Honoring Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan

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Location: Washington, DC

SECRETARY KERRY: Good afternoon, everybody. Please be seated. Thank you very much. Welcome to the State Department. Burada dostlarınızın arasındasınız. Which, if I said that correctly, means you are here among friends.
It's my honor to welcome all of you to the Department of State, especially our very distinguished guests, Prime Minister Erdogan and Mrs. Emine Erdogan and her family, her beautiful family, who are here with her; Deputy Prime Minister Arinc and Mrs. Arinc; and Foreign Minister Davutoglu and his wife; and our friends from the Turkish-American community. We're pleased to have all of you here.

I'm very pleased to be here also, obviously, with my good friend, the Vice President of the United States, and Dr. Jill Biden. I also want to recognize my wife, Teresa, who is here. And I want to welcome Turkey's Ambassador to the United States Namik Tan and Fugen Tan, Mrs. Tan. Thank you for being with us.

Throughout my first 100 days as Secretary of State, I visited no country more than I have visited Turkey. I've been there three times already, and to put that in perspective, I have been home only twice. (Laughter.)

So I very much appreciate that my friends in Turkey have welcomed me into their homes. I've had the pleasure of marveling at the Foreign Minister's extraordinary collection of calligraphy. I've experienced the warm hospitality of our friends, and I have laid a wreath at Anitkabir and the beautiful monument to the founder of the republic. And in our many conversations in Ankara and Istanbul, in Rome, in Brussels, and in what I think, Ahmet, are almost daily telephone calls, we have strengthened our very strong personal relationship and our strategic alliance.

So I'm honored to return your warm hospitality by welcoming you here to Washington to the Harry Truman Building. After all, it was his defining policy in the aftermath of World War II, the Truman Doctrine, that cast the modern relationship between the United States and Turkey. And it is a relationship that is shared, rooted in democratic values, freedom, pluralism, and justice. Five years after Truman outlined his vision, Turkey joined NATO, and our mutual commitment to regional peace and security has grown only stronger in the decades since.

Of course, our alliance, like any alliance, requires vigilance. And on the day that I was sworn in as Secretary, a suicide bomber in Ankara took the life of a Turkish guard at the U.S. Embassy, Mustafa Akarsu. And he bravely stood in front of that bomb to save the lives of countless others. We grieve his loss and those killed just this past weekend, the victims of two car bombings in Reyhanli, and America's thoughts are with those who mourn their loved ones and those who wait for their loved ones' wounds to heal.

We all gather here knowing that we have a distance to go to make our world more secure and stable, and never has that been -- that effort -- been more important than it is today. So it's comforting to know that where the thorniest problems exist, we look beside us and we find Turkey at the table helping to lead.

The crisis in Syria, the new challenges exposed by the transitions in the Arab world, the opportunity to forge peace in the Middle East -- in each of these priorities Turkey has been and will continue to be a vital partner.

This is in the nature of Turkey. Ninety years ago, Ataturk wrote a beautiful letter to the United States Congress telling America that the nation that he founded shares our love of liberty, independence, and democracy. He said, "Keep your heart open to the Turkish people." "Turks," he said, "are just like you, sincerely striving for the promotion of progress and justice in the world."

Today, your rich culture combines the traditions of the East and the West, the ancient and the modern, just as your country spans Europe and Asia. Your growing economy capitalizes on the innovation of extraordinary citizens, and your proud place on the global stage is reflected in your readiness to address the world's most pressing problems. Your success is your own creation.

But Mr. Prime Minister, what I think we all most appreciate about the U.S.-Turkish relationship is that it's grounded not just on high-level diplomatic initiatives alone. What truly drives this friendship are our students and our scholars, our scientists and our artists, our tourists and our entrepreneurs, some of the most accomplished of whom are here with us today. Our alliance is strong because of our people.

I don't know how many of you know this, but Turkey sends more students to America's colleges and universities than any other European nation. And I am happy to say that includes the children of Prime Minister Erdogan, Foreign Minister Davutoglu, and President Gul. A couple of them actually studied in my hometown of Boston, where you can find so many Turkish students, folks, that we call it Bostonbul. (Applause.)

The long list of successful exchange students includes Hamdi Ulukaya, who is here today. And when he left eastern Turkey's dairy country to come to study in upstate New York, he didn't know a word of English, he had $3,000 to his name. Today, Hamdi employs 3,000 people at Chobani, which runs the two largest yogurt manufacturing facilities in the world. And in the great Turkish tradition of philanthropy, every year Hamdi gives away 10 percent of his company's profits. (Applause.)

Prime Minister Erdogan, your visit to the United States is really a great celebration of the firm U.S.-Turkish friendship, and we affirm today that it is stronger than those who try to intimidate us with violence, it is tougher than the tests we face together in all corners of the globe, and our arms reach out wider than the waters that separate us. As the proverb says, and I will try this, Dağ dağa kavusmaz, insan insana kavusur. (Applause.) The mountains do not come together, but people do. And it's up to us to make it so. So thank you for your friendship, Mr. Prime Minister. Welcome to Washington. (Applause.)

The country and the State Department are very fortunate to have a Vice President who is as deeply experienced in foreign policy as Joe Biden. And it is not just words when I say to you that he knows the importance of marrying our interests and our values. Joe and I -- excuse me, the Vice President and I (laughter) -- have been on a journey together for -- since 1972, and we served together on the Foreign Relations Committee for 26 years. We used to joke about the fact that those of us sitting to the left of the Vice President -- Paul Sarbanes, Chris Dodd, myself -- we thought we would never, any of us, be chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee because he had such a strong heartbeat and he was so young. (Laughter.) (Inaudible) part, I totally screwed it up. (Laughter.)

So I'll just summarize by saying very quickly the Vice President, when he served in the Senate, was the leading voice, the conscience really, that called to account America's actions in Bosnia. He was prescient with respect to Iraq and Afghanistan. I think he was the first American on the ground with President Karzai before he became president, days after he went into the country. He's always been on the cutting edge, the leading edge, of our foreign policy issues. We are lucky, Mr. Prime Minister, to have a Vice President who is as knowledgeable about foreign policy and as much of a supporter of the enterprise in the State Department.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Vice President of the United States Joe Biden. (Applause.)


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