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President Bush Meets With Turkish Prime Minister

Aired January 16, 2002 - 15:28   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, we do have some breaking news. This is a different story. We are still following that school shooting in Grundy, Virginia. But we are also looking to see some new words coming from President Bush in Washington.

Our Major Garrett is going to join us right now. We are expecting to see what the latest happened -- President Bush meeting with the Turkish prime minister, just moments ago -- Major.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right Leon, we are going to have some tape rolling from an Oval Office meeting with the president and the prime minister of Turkey. Prime Minister Ecevit. A couple of issues on the table, Turkey's willingness to participate in that international security force in Afghanistan.

Here's the president in the Oval Office.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... a few remarks. Both of us have agreed to take some questions. I would like those travelling with the Turkish press to have a chance to ask some questions today, as well. We'll both take two questions a piece. Thank you for coming Mr. Prime Minister.

I'm proud to welcome you. As a friend, you have been steadfast in your support in the war against terror, and for that my nation is very grateful.

We appreciate your leadership when it comes to foreign policy, and we appreciate your leadership when it comes to economic policy. You and your administration have made some very tough decisions, and the economy is improving as a result of your leadership.

And we look forward to having a good discussion about how we can increase trade.

And today I'm informing the prime minister that we're lifting the travel ban on Turkey so that our citizens can feel comfortable going to that wonderful country to visit and to enjoy the rich history of one of our valued allies and friends.

So welcome, Mr. Prime Minister. It's a delight to welcome you, and thank you for coming. ECEVIT: Thank you very much for your kind invitation, Mr. President. It is a great honor for us. We deeply appreciate the support that you have extended since you have taken over to relations with Turkey. We had always good relations with the United States. During your term of office you have further enhanced this cooperation and friendship.

We have some very good, concrete good news now, as you have referred to it, Mr. President.

ECEVIT: The State Department has today issued a statement expressing the will of the United States that we will be able to form an economic partnership in addition to our political partnership. We attach great importance to that.

Our cooperation with you against terrorism is a great service not only for our own people, but for the whole world. The American determination to get rid of terrorism in the world is of great importance -- of historic importance. And we are glad -- we are very happy that we have the chance to cooperate with you to that effect.

And the Turkish and American cooperation, partnership, now together with economic partnership, will be beneficial for peoples of both our countries.

We had very fruitful discussions during the brief period here. We still have other items on our agenda. And we shall go to New York also to visit the place of terrorism.

Thank you very much for sparing this time and showing this kind generosity and friendship to us.

BUSH: Well, you're welcome, sir.

ECEVIT: Thank you.

QUESTION: What do both of you see as the chances of a negotiated settlement to the Cyprus question?

BUSH: Well, I'll let the prime minister speak.

Of course, we're very encouraged that there is a dialogue now taking place. And I want to thank the prime minister and the foreign minister for encouraging that dialogue. You can't solve a problem unless the parties are willing to talk.

And, Mr. Prime Minister, would you like to speak about the Cyprus situation?

ECEVIT: Yes. We attach great importance to our dialogue with you.

With regard to Cyprus, it's good news that the leaders of the two communities are now having face-to-face dialogue.

ECEVIT: They may not attain complete results immediately, but the very fact, the very process of dialogue may lead to satisfactory agreements between the two communities.

BUSH: Well, I appreciate that very much.

Anybody from the Turkish press corps?


BUSH: Iraqi policy?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) expectation from the Turkish government?

BUSH: Well, I'm going to have a discussion with the prime minister about Iraq, and my expectation is most importantly not from Turkey or from Iraq. I expect Saddam Hussein to let inspectors back into the country. We want to know whether he's developing weapons of mass destruction. He claims he's not: Let the world into see. And if he doesn't we'll have to deal with that at the appropriate time.

My discussions with the prime minister are not only regional in nature but global in nature. And I will assure him that we will consult closely with Turkey on any decisions that I make. Turkey's an ally and a friend, and no decisions have been made beyond the first theater, and the first theater is in Afghanistan, and I do appreciate very much the Turkish support for our efforts in Afghanistan.


BUSH: If he doesn't let him in? He'll find out.

QUESTION: I have a question on Afghanistan. Do you support (OFF-MIKE) peacekeeping operation there? And if the United States (OFF-MIKE) why not involve (OFF-MIKE)

BUSH: Well, first of all, there's been a lot of international interest in providing troops to help keep the peace, and we welcome that support. As you know, the Brits have now taken the lead in the first round. There are some discussions as to whether or not Turkey will take the lead in the second round, and I appreciate their consideration of this very important matter.

I believe there's plenty of troops from other nations that are willing to help. After all I've made it clear that our troops will be used to fight and win war, and that's exactly what they've done. We send them over to fight a war, and we're winning the war.

BUSH: And on the other hand, we're more than willing to help with the reconstruction efforts. We'll make serious contributions to the interim government of Afghanistan so they can help rebuild themselves. We look forward to the conference in Tokyo; we'll have representatives there. And just today Richard Armitage, our deputy secretary of state, met with the finance minister of the interim government of Afghanistan, and I've been told they had a very good discussion about how to get cash starting to move into the coffers.

But I think there's ample support from around the world to provide troops to help stabilize Afghanistan so the government can eventually take over its own defense.

QUESTION: President Bush, are you going to channel more funds to support Turkey in its role in Afghanistan?

BUSH: Channel more funds to support Turkey in its role in Afghanistan?


BUSH: You mean, if and when they provide troops? That's what you're talking about?


BUSH: Well, we haven't had that discussion yet. And one thing for certain is that we're providing a lot of funds now in the Afghan theater. After all, we're proudly leading the efforts to destroy the Taliban and root out the Al Qaeda. As to reimbursements, that's a discussion we'll have at a later date.

Turkey hasn't made up her mind yet as to whether or not she is going to lead the coalition forces. We're just in discussion phases. So I think the budgetary phase -- the budgetary discussions should take place after a commitment has been made.


QUESTION: ... about Senator Kennedy's call for...


BUSH: Oh, let me comment. I appreciate that very much.

QUESTION: I thought you might want to. BUSH: Well, Mr. Prime Minister, we put a significant tax relief package in place right at the right time. Our economy was beginning to slow down in March of 2001. Fortunately, I was able to work with both Democrats and Republicans in our Congress to get a good tax relief package out. And when the economy slows down, it makes sense to cut taxes, and that's exactly what's happened.

And those who want to revoke the tax cut, basically raise taxes, are those who just don't share my view. I think raising taxes in the midst of a recession is wrong economic policy. It'd be a huge mistake. It's bad for American workers. It'll hurt when it comes to creating jobs. And so I strongly disagree with those who want to raise taxes here in Washington, D.C.

I'm confident that the American people agree with me as well. And if members of the House and the Senate listen to their constituents and listen to those who want to find work, they will understand the wisdom of our ways.

Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HARRIS: Those were the comments that are on tape, they happened just moments ago, between the Turkish Prime Minister Ecevit and President Bush there. And our Major Garrett's also been listening in. And, Major, I must say, I am surprised that Kennedy question came up that late?

GARRETT: Well, you know, the press hall wants to be respectful and there are some issues between Turkey and the United States as the international war on global terrorism continues. And turkey has a couple of very significant issues with which to discus with the United States, number one, it is considering becoming a lead country in the second phase of the international security force in Afghanistan, that's something the United States has privately encouraged, the British as the president said, are leading that now. There is a move to have the Turkish sort of take the second phase lead.

And the president made clear that once again the United States is not going to play a role on the ground in that international security force. Saying that the U.S. troops are committed to fighting and winning wars, they've done that and they are going to move out. Now that is a topic of some debate internationally, because Afghanistan is not yet a secure place, many places Kabul, other major cities are still dealing with warlordism and tribal factions and security is not come anywhere near approaching a sense of normalcy throughout the country, that's got to be done in order to create these other governmental institutions and create a sense of confidence toward any sort of economic development can take place. That is a key factor for the wolrd community, as it looks to the next phase of Afghanistan's renewal, obviously Turkey will play a big role in that.

On the question of Iraq, Turkey is not at all interested in encouraging any sort of rebellion in northern Iraq, where the Kurds are located. Turks do not have particularly good relations with the Kurds, and are eyeing that region of Iraq very carefully. The president side stepped that issue, saying I do not have anything to discuss with Turkey, what I want from Iraq is to re-allow international weapons inspectors back into the country, to prove to the world that -- as the president said, Saddam Hussein has repeatedly contended that there are no programs of developing weapons of mass destruction. The president wants those inspectors in to prove that point, and if they are not in, the president saying, again some action will be taken; when asked what it was or when it might happen: well, we'll let you know. That's been a constant refrain from this president for the last three or four months -- Leon.

HARRIS: Thank you very much, Major Garrett at the White House, appreciate it.




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