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Remarks by the Vice President to the American Turkish Council

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Location: Washington, DC

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. (Applause.) You all should know better than to listen to the Ambassador. Thank you all very, very much.

Mr. Deputy Prime Minister, it's great to be with you. Quite frankly, we've become friends, and it's great to join you tonight and be here to speak to this organization.

And, Ambassador Holmes, and, President and CEO of the Turkish Council Tom Kennedy, thank you for the kind words as well.

Look, it's most of all a pleasure to be back here with Rich Armitage, Ambassador Armitage. We've been good friends -- I mean this sincerely -- we've been good friends for a long, long time. And the thing that I like about him -- and we went through some pretty interesting times in eight years in another administration and long before that. And the thing about Rich Armitage and I'm sure it's the reason why you look to him is he is absolutely straight as an arrow. He's the only witness I can say who testified before my committees multiple times that I never, never -- and I mean this sincerely -- once ever wondered whether I was being misled or I was being misled by omission -- never one single time. And that is a rare commodity in this town, and almost any other town. And so I realize, Mr. Ambassador, I'm probably ruining your reputation by acknowledging this, but I -- if I were a little freer to tell you, I still seek his counsel, and he's still an incredible asset to the United States government.

I'm delighted to be here with all the Turks and Americans who through business, family, friendship help carry this relationship forward every single day.

As we meet here today, as you all know, there's violent protests in the streets of Turkey, which raises concerns around the world, including in my own country. To state the obvious, only Turks are going to be able to solve their problem, but the United States stands for certain clear principles in these circumstances: nonviolence from both government and demonstrators; respect for the freedom of assembly and a free and independent press.

Turkey's future belongs to the people of Turkey and no one else. But the United States does not pretend to be indifferent to the outcome because we firmly believe that countries with open societies, political systems and economies, democratic institutions and a firm commitment to universal human rights, these are the countries that will thrive and be the most powerful countries in the 21st century.

Today -- today's Turkey has a chance to demonstrate that there's no need to choose between economic advancement and democracy, between the system that empowers the winners of elections and yet protects those who are in the opposition.

One reason Turkey's economy in my view, Mr. Prime Minister, has thrived so much over the past decade is because it's realized the benefits of the steps it has taken toward greater political openness. Its economy has tripled. It's gone from the world's 26th largest to the 17th largest today. And Prime Minister Erdogan has a goal that it be one of the 10 largest economies.

Turkey has brought inflation from 100 percent to 6 percent and made its last IMF payment in May. Turkey has set a goal for it being in the top 10 economies by 2023. And I'm confident with the right choices, Turkey will accomplish that goal.

Toward that end, the U.S. and Turkey launched a framework for strategic and economic commercial cooperation in 2009. We've already seen a 75 percent increase. I'm preaching to the choir here, I know -- but a 75 percent increase in trade, reaching $20 billion -- still much too small, but growing with overwhelming potential as I discussed with Prime Minister Erdogan when he was here -- $5 billion dollars of U.S. direct investment in Turkey, $1 billion of Turkey investment -- direct investment into the United States with a hope for more.

Still as the Prime Minister and I discussed when we spoke together in front of the U.S.-Turkey Chamber of Commerce during his very successful visit here, the potential to do more is so vast; more to improve the business climate and attract investment, more to realize the immense opportunities in the areas of light tech, pharmaceuticals and energy; and more to help bright Turkish students access American universities. Today there are already more students from Turkey at our universities than any other country in the European Union, and we welcome that. And we want to see more. That deepens the roots of relationships.

And we've recently set up a new high-level committee that will allow us to move forward on issues that will unlock greater trade, investment and innovation. We'll keep Turkey informed of the progress of the U.S. trade talks with the EU, so that when the time is right we'll be able to take our trade relationship with Turkey to the next step.

There are also encouraging signs that Turkey is willing to take important steps forward in resolving outstanding issues with the Kurds, the Greek Orthodox Church and others. And we hope to see a similar vision in progress when it comes to Turkey's longstanding problems with Armenia and Cyprus. But these are courageous leaders that exist now. The past is not the anchor that it's been in the past.

We also want to keep working closely with Turkey on many strategic challenges -- the many that we both share. We're both members of the most powerful military alliance in history. Since 1952, Turkey has been a member of NATO. Our commitment to the collective defense is critical, manifest in the Patriot missile batteries in Turkey's border, but also the world has change. Its change, in many respects, and our relationship today is about more than just defense. We've been military allies for a long time. But it's beyond that today.

It includes our work together on issues and organizations as diverse as the G20, the Global Counterterrorism Forum, the challenges that are of a changing Middle East. But just as we have in the past, we're going to continue to have some disagreements, we always do, as NATO allies -- and all NATO allies do. We've disagreed in the past with Turkey about Israel. But Turkey understands and no one doubts that our commitment to Israel's security and survival is absolute. That's why we're so pleased that Prime Minister Erdogan and Prime Minister Netanyahu began to reestablish the strategic cooperation between the two countries that they had in the past. We encourage them to keep working constructively to repair those ties.

We will, as allies, sometimes disagree on tactics but we are all working toward the same thing -- a two-state solution, an independent Palestinian state and a secure Israeli state; a successful Egyptian transition; a democratic multi-ethnic nonsectarian Syria with institutions intact; a non-nuclear Iran. On all the major issues, we are in agreement whether or not occasionally tactically we disagree. That is consequential.

And it falls to each of us to shore up the foundations of our strength at home, because in the 21st century, greatness among nations is defined not simply by the size of the country, by the dynamism of its economy, by the openness of its -- it's more by the dynamism of its economy, the openness of its markets and society; its ability to build and draw on new talents of its citizens and help them deliver their dreams. That's the new definition as a practical matter.

Your success, Deputy Prime Minister, as an ally and as a strategic economic and democratic partner, is profoundly -- profoundly -- in the naked self-interest of the United States of America.

The Turkish people will be authors of their own future, but they should know that the United States, Mr. Prime Minister, stands ready -- stands ready as an ally and a friend to help make that future more secure, prosperous, and democratic as Turkey celebrates its 100th anniversary as a republic.

That's our goal in this relationship. Turkey is a vital ally. And the promise that Turkey holds for the entire region as an emerging major power, if it works, is all for the good for everybody.

So, Mr. Deputy Prime Minister, it's always a pleasure to be with you. We've had a lot of private conversations and I have no doubt about the trajectory of your country. We're happy to come along for the ride. We wish you all the success in the world. And thank you all for keeping this relationship so vibrant.

Thank you all very much. (Applause.)


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