We’d like to see more media freedom in Turkey, says US spokesperson
Tolga Tanış – WASHINGTONThe U.S.-Turkish bilateral relationship will continue yet recent attacks on Turkey’s press have worried Washington, U.S. State spokesperson John Kirby has told daily Hürriyet, while also pledging continued cooperation against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Kirby commented on the current situation of media freedom in Turkey, vowing that Washington would continue cooperation despite the distressing situation.
“We have been very clear about what our hopes and expectations are for Turkey moving forward. It is distressing to see media freedoms curtailed for any purpose,” he said.
“We said all along that we’re going to work with whatever government is installed. Turkey is a NATO ally. As a NATO ally, we have commitments to Turkey; Turkey has commitments to us,” Kirby added.
In this regard, Kirby highlighted that the U.S. would continue to clearly express disagreements, saying press restrictions had not resulted in any concrete consequences on the U.S.-Turkish relationship.
“We are not just there yet. We’ve expressed our concerns. We’d like to see more media freedom. And we’ll continue to press those issues as we need to. At the same time, we must and will continue to work with Turkey on other issues, particularly the threat of ISIL,” said Kirby.
Kirby cited Russia as an example of being able to continue bilateral relationships despite disagreements.
“We don’t like some of the things that we have seen inside Turkey right now, particularly with media freedom. And so we are having frank and honest, candid conversations with Turkish leaders about this as we do with governments all over the world. That we don’t agree on this, and that this is distressing to us, does not mean that we’ve tossed the relationship out. In fact, quite the opposite; it is because we have a strong relationship with Turkey and a long history with Turkey that we can have these very frank and honest conversations, and we can continue to pursue these issues that we have worries about,” Kirby said.
“We work with countries all around the world on lots of issues, and we disagree with countries all around the world on other issues. Look at our relationship with Russia,” he said.
Kirby also made clear that his comments last week on the Turkish constitution, in which he said, “There are actions that they are taking which in our view don’t comport with their own core values as mentioned in their own constitution,” regarded how political leaders had encouraged attacks targeting daily Hürriyet.
“What I was referring to was comments made by some political leaders encouraging these attacks against Hürriyet and against opposition offices and buildings. And that is obviously troubling to us because Turkey is a democracy. Turkey has a strong constitution and democratic institutions,” Kirby said.
In this perspective, he explained the significance of Turkish democracy to the U.S., noting that Turkey was a close ally.
“I said Turkey’s democracy matters to us. And it does. We did not decide to make Turkey a democracy. The Turkish people did. And we are grateful for that and Turkey’s democracy, Turkey’s success and prosperity – all that matters to us because we are a close friend and partner,” he said.
“We simply want to see Turkey’s democracy continue to flourish. That means respecting the right of free speech, respecting the right of opposition members and parties to exist, to flourish and to challenge the policies they object to,” Kirby said.
Kirby also acknowledged the Turkish support in the anti-ISIL fight, emphasizing the country’s role. “We are grateful for their cooperation which has recently expanded,” he said.
He also said the U.S. did not wait for the formation of a new government in Turkey before agreeing to a deal that allowed them to attack ISIL from Turkey’s İncirlik Air Base because the jihadist group is a serious threat that needs to be immediately addressed.
“The timing was months to get to that point to make the agreement in which Turkey allowed us to use three of their bases and participated in the coalition’s air operations,” he said.