A DISCUSSION WITH THE PRIME MINISTER OF TURKEY
The Charlie Rose Show SHOW : THE CHARLIE ROSE SHOW 11:00 PM EST September 27, 2007 Thursday
HOST : Charlie Rose GUESTS : Recep Tayyip Erdogan
A discussion with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister of Turkey.
CHARLIE ROSE, HOST : Welcome to the broadcast. Tonight, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister of Turkey.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, PRIME MINISTER, TURKEY (through translator) : Most recently, there`s been a lot of discussion about this so-called Armenian genocide issue. There`s a wrong approach here. This — this issue is not first and foremost an issue for us, the politicians, to deal with. It must first be discussed by historians.
I wrote a letter to President Kocharian, to ask him to come together with us help establish a commission, a joint commission, that would include archaeologists, political scientists, legal experts, historians and others. And I said that we should put all our archives at each other`s disposal.
We opened our archives, and I asked him to open theirs if they have archives, and the third countries could also do the same and avail their archives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLIE ROSE : Turkey and the world through the eyes of prime minister, coming up.
CHARLIE ROSE : Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the prime minister of Turkey and leader of the Justice and Development Party. His party won a landslide election victory this summer. It was the first time in more than 50 years that the Turks returned an incumbent party to power with an even greater majority. Prime Minister Erdogan was then able to install his close ally, his friend and former foreign minister, Abdullah Gul, as president.
We talked yesterday at the Turkish consulate here in New York, and here is that conversation.
CHARLIE ROSE : Mr. Prime Minister, thank you very much for allowing us to have this conversation with you.
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through translator) : Thank you very much. Yes, I`m very happy to be here.
CHARLIE ROSE : You had recent election victories. What are the implications of the parliament and the new president, who is your good friend and former foreign minister ? What are the implications for Turkey of these victories ?
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through translator) : First of all, let me say that the elections on the 22nd of July was very important, because in the last 53 years we`re the first government who has been able to increase its vote for a second term. So there was no similar case in the last 53 years. This had happened in 1954, and since 1954, for the first time this year on July 22nd, we were able to increase our votes by 40 percent compared to the previous election. And we have more or less main maintained our majority in the parliament, and our votes went from 34 percent in the previous election to 47 percent in this election.
This, of course, is important not just for us, but for those people who believe in Turkey and who follow on development and stability in Turkey.
And our slogan for the election was, there`s no stopping, we will keep moving forward. And so we have in the first term of government gone through perhaps what you might term a period of restoration, and now we`re moving even faster. And in this second term we are now, we have a new government. We have a president. And so the elections are behind us now, and now the time has come to once again serve the people. And we will succeed in that effort.
CHARLIE ROSE : Why do you think the military has shown some concern about an erosion in secularism ?
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through translator) : I have to say the following on this point : One cannot speak of any such concern or danger in Turkey. It cannot be the case, because our government continues to implement secularism as it is defined in the 1982 Constitution. We are a democratic, secular, social state, and we aim to strengthen all of the institutions of this country, and this is the way we will move forward. There cannot be any concessions made in any one of these issues. And there is no one, or there cannot be anyone in our team who believes otherwise. And our work continues — will continue with the same determination in the future.
But there may be people who may not be so happy with the AK Party government right now, and it may be their approach now. But I think over time, when they see the practice, those concerns will be overcome.
CHARLIE ROSE : As you know, even in the campaign for the presidency by President Gul, the idea of his wife wearing a scarf became an issue and a symbol. In France, the wearing of scarves is an issue and a symbol. In Turkey in the Constitution, it restricts the wearing of scarves in schools.
For those who think the loosening of that dictum means a loosening of a commitment to secularism, what do you say ?
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through translator) : Everybody is free to express their opinion, of course. I don`t feel the need to specifically make a specific response to that. But what I`m trying to do, and I will tell you that, head scarf is not — cannot be a political symbol. If you look at the people who believe in my party, there are some who cover their heads. If you look at other political parties in Turkey, you will see that some of their members or the wives of some of them are covering their heads.
So if we`re talking about a political symbol here, it would have had to represent just one political party. But if you have it in all of the political parties, then it is not a political symbol in that sense of the word.
For example, in France, there`s this discussion about universities.
In France, you can enter a university with a head scarf. There`s no restriction in the Constitution about the head scarf. And furthermore, I find the discussion about it existing or not existing in another country not a comparison, because then you have to look at all the countries. Do you have it in the U.S. or in Germany ? So you start having to look at all of these. In those countries, which I have cited, it is impossible to go to the university if you cover your head. In France, too, the same thing applies. In many other countries, the same thing is true.
But when you look at where this comes from, you see that a woman who covers her head says that she covers her head because of her beliefs, not for any other reason, and covers her head because of her beliefs.
So this is — here, the issue is of freedoms. Freedom of education, freedom of religion and conscience.
I think that is the approach we have to take. I think there`s a lot of merit in looking at the issue from this perspective. This will also help eliminate discrimination in society, because in fact, up to a certain period in time, there was no such difficulty in our universities. Those difficulties arose later on.
Of course, the more bans or barriers you have in a society, the more you get radical enemies. We don`t want to have that kind of radicalism emerging in any way. We don`t want to see that happen. We want to stop it from happening.
What I would like to see is to have women who cover their heads or don`t to go and walk around together, which they do. There`s no problem with that. But some circles have certain concerns, but we`re sorry to hear that they have those concerns, in fact.
CHARLIE ROSE : For those who say this election, this great election success is somehow a challenge to Ataturk`s vision of secularism, what do you say ?
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through translator) : I cannot agree with those thoughts. I think that that analogy is very wrong. That analogy is disrespect to Ataturk, insult to Ataturk. Why ? Because if you look at — when we look at what secularism means and we look at different countries in the world and what happens in other countries, we see that secularism is an understanding through which an administration keeps an equal distance from all beliefs and religions. And it`s a way to safeguard all beliefs. And this in fact exists in the introduction of the 1982 Constitution. We will actually maintain that article as such in our draft. So there`s nothing to be said on that.
Now, if we look at it in a different perspective, where we see it as this separation of religion from state, there we maintain our sensitivity, as has been the case in the past.
So there`s no issue for concern. There are some who are perhaps trying to create some concern. But Turkey is a democratic, secular, social state respecting the rule of law. And we see that every stake (ph) in the democratic process strengthens those qualities of Turkey.
CHARLIE ROSE : Last two questions about this issue of Islam and secularism in Turkey. "Newsweek" magazine said that this election was less about secularists and Islamists than a seismic change in the country`s elites and Turkey`s class structure. That in fact, it was somehow a portrayal by those who are in a minority to intimidate Islamists by raising the fear of an erosion of secularism. Do you feel that the elites in Turkey have an unnatural fear of Islam and Islamists in Turkey ?
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through translator) : Right now, what we are working on, and when people ask questions about what people believe in in Turkey, and I mean ask the person on the street, the answer you always get is that Turkey is 99 percent Muslim. I think there`s no issue to discuss here. But if we see this election result as a class struggle or a differentiation between social classes, I can agree to this only to a certain extent, but I cannot fully agree to that.
Because in Turkey, in the understanding of AK Party, our goal is to embrace the whole country.
For example, other political parties are active in only certain parts of country, but AK Party has been able to get 80 — get seats from 80 provinces out of 81 provinces in Turkey, which means that the party is represented all across the country. And the fact that we got 47 percent of the vote means that we have actually an even greater responsibility today.
So our aim is not to view our people from a class perspective. And I mean to say or include all people having different beliefs. We have to approach everyone. We have to embrace everyone. And that`s been our goal.
Some elitists or elite circles have certain concerns, and their concerns more have to do with the power struggle that they were aiming at. And the election on the 22nd of July was a response to that, and the people responded to that. One out of every two people in Turkey voted for the AK Party, which was a response, a description of the situation.
So what the elites have to do is sit down and ask themselves why this has happened this way. They have to think of where they made the mistake. And I think if they do that, they will find the right answers.
CHARLIE ROSE : Turning to the European Union. Is your enthusiasm, President Gul`s enthusiasm, your party`s enthusiasm, the people of Turkey`s enthusiasm for membership still strong ?
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through translator) : I can say it`s even stronger. The number of — there are three actors or groups that believe true in the EU membership process. First, the president, the prime minister, myself, and the foreign minister. And as the government, we have a team that believes in EU membership, and we`ll keep working even harder.
Our country is an accession country right now. We`re negotiating for membership, and we have already opened and closed negotiations for one chapter. Three more chapters were opened for negotiation.
So I always say the following : It is not maybe so much important that they take us in or not. We, in fact, implement the Copenhagen political criteria. We call them Ankara criteria, Ankara political criteria, and we implement them, and we keep working in this direction. Because we have gone into this in order to improve the living standards of our people, in order to have a better democracy, because we saw this process as the place where civilizations can come together. And it is for that reason or for those reasons that we will continue to work in this area.
Our president continues to contact with — have contacts with EU member states. I`ll do the same, and our foreign minister, too. No doubts about it.
CHARLIE ROSE : President Sarkozy, in conversations with me, he has been opposed ; in his campaign, opposed. He makes points about the difference between Turkey and Europe. Are you changing his mind ?
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through translator) : I actually called him after his election to congratulate him at the time. And ever since that discussion, I think quite a number of things have changed. And I think this is very important from the point of view of Turkey and France. Because Turkey and France have a history dating back many centuries. There have been cultural cooperation, political, economic cooperation in our political history.
We have been influenced mostly from France in our description and definition of secularism. You see the French influence in that. And of course, today, in the current process, we have always felt France`s support with us in the EU process. And I believe that from this day forward, there are many things we can do jointly. We spoke about them between ourselves. Our foreign ministers, and our special envoys both on our side and on President Sarkozy`s side, meet to talk about our bilateral relations, as well as what we can do within the context of the EU.
We will continue to hold these discussions. So after that work moves forward, I will visit France, and I hope that then we will be able to reach a decision.
CHARLIE ROSE : Talk to me about this issue of — in a broader way and considerations of a conflict between — and what is necessary for Islam and the West to reach a broader understanding of how they look at issues that some people want to see as dividing issues.
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through translator) : I`m usually very open and direct. Let me first of all say that we have to overcome some of our preconceptions and we have to move away from prejudice. I do not believe in a clash of civilizations in this world, and it is for that reason that I`m working — I am in the alliance of civilizations with my colleagues. And we will continue to work in this area, and the support there continues to grow every day to the alliance of civilizations, that is.
As Turkey, we are at an ideal position to be a bridge between the West and the Islamic, Muslim countries. We are a democratic, secular, social state respecting the rule of law, and most of our citizens are Muslim.
So from that perspective, this is a way to show how a person who is Muslim can live with democracy. And we have been able to show that.
And the — in the Islamic world, there`s a lot of acceptance of that fact.
The Christian world, or the Western world has had experiences, but Turkey`s entry to the European Union will be very important in that context, because 1.5 billion Muslims in the world are watching very closely Turkey`s accession to the European Union. They`re waiting for Turkey`s membership to the European Union, and I think that the members of the European Union are in fact getting late. Things have to move much more faster.
And if that happens, we would see many problems overcome. For example, terrorism, fighting against terrorism. We have to establish a common platform to fight against terrorism. And the biggest actor in that struggle is Turkey, because Turkey is already fighting against terrorism on all fronts. We also fight in our own country against terrorism, but we also sent our troops to Afghanistan, and we have also sent our troops to other parts of the world when invited to maintain peace and to fight against terrorism.
And so, this goes to show that Turkey is always ready to fight against terrorism. And we would expect our friends to do the same.
For example, Iraq is next door to Turkey, and we see that the separatist terrorist organization in Turkey is based in Iraq. And there`s a mechanism to prevent this terrorist organization from acting, and that mechanism has to be functioning so that we succeed in fighting against this separatist terrorist organization. These are the kinds of things we worry about and we are concerned about.
So Turkey`s sensitivities with respect to terrorism, we expect the same sensitivity from our friends, including, of course, our friends the Americans. So, we never supported the idea that somebody`s terrorist is better than others. We do not believe in terrorism of any kind. All terrorists are bad. They have to be condemned no matter what religion they come from.
And one more thing I want to say here. We consider anti-Semitism as a crime against humanity, and I`m a prime minister who boldly stated that. And in the same way we must also agree that Islamophobia is a crime against humanity. One cannot judge Islam because there`s been some terrorists who happen to believe in Islam, because terrorists come from different backgrounds. From a Christian background or a Jewish background or other backgrounds.
CHARLIE ROSE : There`s been much controversy here because of the president of Iran and what he says about the Holocaust and what he says about the right of Israel to exist. He comes from a theocracy, an Islamic state. Shouldn`t you and other leaders be prepared to denounce those views, which go against your own intellectual and moral judgment ?
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through translator) : I did not follow the most recent statements during my busy schedule here, but there have been previous statements, some of which we do and some of which we do not accept.
There`s one thing we have to say, and that is — I think that every person, especially the political leaders, have freedoms of their own, as would any person, but that freedom should not in any way intervene in the freedom space of another person. That is wrong no matter who does it. If that were me, it would be wrong. If it`s the Iranian leader, it would be wrong. So it`s the same for everyone.
CHARLIE ROSE : Some would argue that you don`t have to comment on every position by every politician around the world. It would be silly for you to have to do that. But the issue of the Holocaust, which took place in Europe and is so clear to anyone, and to have someone say that it`s not offends so many people that it is a responsibility, some argue, for leaders like you, and especially comes from an Islamic background, you know, to be clear how you feel about that. It`s not just one more opinion by one more leader.
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through translator) : Of course, every statement that I make is important, not just from the point of view of my country, but also in an international context. And for that reason, I mentioned establishing a message, finding a common message.
So any message that we would present as Turkey, for example, must be in line with what the U.S. does or what France or what Israel does and Iran does or the Gulf states, or Western countries or the Far Eastern countries. We must all do it jointly.
So finding or expressing a certain attitude only by ourselves will not solve the problem. I think the answer, the key comes in establishing common attitudes. And the best place to do that is, of course, the United Nations, the Security Council. But the Security Council and steps that the Security Council could take within that common understanding background will require overcoming many issues and taking care of many issues, such as justice, being just and fair.
And as long as we`re just and fair and we have a democratic understanding, I think we can reach a solution given the rules of law.
CHARLIE ROSE : Turn to Iraq. Do you fear a civil war if the United States leaves, more egregious than now, more violent than now, in which Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia might feel compelled to get involved ?
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through translator) : In Iraq at the moment, there is a democratic process in transition. Of course, that is not completed by any means. We see that. And we take the central government of Iraq as the relevant party to us, and we have spoken to them a number of times so far. And their minister of internal affairs was in my country yesterday. He came with a big delegation, discussing fighting — discussing issues like fighting against terrorism and security issues.
As you know, we have a tri-partite mechanism against the separatist terrorist organization — Turkey, the United States and Iraq — so that we would succeed in fighting against this separatist terrorist organization.
Our — well, we`ve always said that we`re in favor of territorial integrity in Iraq. And we want to see Iraq free of sectarian violence as soon as possible, because so long as that violence continues to be the case, then it will be quite impossible to achieve political stability in the country. And so to overcome these problems, what is important is to ensure participation of the different groups, the Shia, the Kurds, the Sunni. So the (inaudible) structure or to be participatory for all these groups.
And there are many things we can do as Turkey. So we hope that others can make good use of that opportunity that Turkey can provide. And we`ve spoken about this to President Bush and Secretary Rice, and we`ve been working on this. We`ve taken some good results, too. For example, we made serious contributions to the entry of the Sunnis to the last election in Iraq.
But as you can — as we can all see, there are issues, problems, still. And I think that we as Turkey can do, so we`re always maybe to help to see if we can find solutions, because this is a fire raging next door to our country, and we don`t want it to rage, to continue to rage, because tens of hundreds of people die every day in Iraq.
And this is very sad. Our people are very close to the Iraqis. There are relatives on both sides, family members in the southeastern part of Turkey and the people living in Iraq, so that puts us in a very different position vis-.-vis Iraq. It connects us. And therefore, there are areas where we can be of help, and we continue to work on those issues.
And I think — I believe that if we can act without emotions, if we can be more rational and include more neighboring countries, we would be more successful.
At the end of October, on the 31st of October and the 1st of November, there will be a meeting in Istanbul. And that meeting in Istanbul will be a large meeting...
CHARLIE ROSE : Of the neighbors ?
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through translator) : Yes. And the United States will also participate.
CHARLIE ROSE : Yes. Yes.
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through translator) : This will be the second meeting after the meeting in Sharm el-Sheik. And the thinking now is to establish a secretariat for this conference. And from the moment that secretariat is established, there will be other steps that will be contemplated.
So if that can be achieved, I think that this process will be moving forward very seriously. And Istanbul, as Turkey, we`re very pleased to host this conference, and I hope that this will lead to a turning point towards better days.
CHARLIE ROSE : OK, help me understand how it can lead to a turning point, because political reconciliation is the issue. Sunni, Kurds, Shia. How can you help make that political reconciliation, of which there`s very little progress, happen ?
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through translator) : What needs to be done in a new election is to ensure that people can see their representatives in the parliament, because that will make them more confident. And it will also provide for a healthy information of government, and that`s why I think how things move forward.
There are terrorist groups, but there are also the insurgents in Iraq. I think one has to make a distinction between the insurgents and the terrorist groups. Overcoming sectarian issues and assessing the ethnic issues carefully are very important. And I think it`s probably necessary to establish some sort of a timing and announce that timeline about the withdrawal of coalition forces. There`s benefits...
CHARLIE ROSE : It`s important to establish a timeline for the withdrawal of American forces ?
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through translator) : Yes. Not just for the American troops, but for all the troops coalitions.
CHARLIE ROSE : All the troops.
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through translator) : And of course, what is important here is not to have Iraq which is at conflict with its neighbors. Iraq must have overcome its conflicts with its neighbors, so that it can strengthen itself. And here, it must also be confirmed that the underground and above ground resources of Iraq belong to all of the Iraqi people.
The issue of Kirkuk in the north must also be resolved. It must have a special status. The city must have a special status. If that city is given to only one specific group, it becomes like a time bomb ready to explode. So those are the kinds of things we have to take care of.
And with respect to the democratic process, census must be carefully done or be — voting registries must be prepared so that people feel confident. And for that to happen, the central government must be very careful, very sensitive. And the coalition forces, too, and their sensitivity to all these issues are — is very important. So these are the kinds of things that will help have a more smoother transition to a new era.
CHARLIE ROSE : What circumstances would demand that Turkey in its own interest intervene militarily ?
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through translator) : Now, we do not have an aim, a goal of intervening in any way in Iraqi territory. However, if there`s an intervention to our territory, if the terrorist organization is basing itself in the neighboring country and is posing a threat to our security and order, then, of course, we would do whatever is necessary within the framework of a legitimate right to defend our people, our nation. And nobody can question that, because everybody will know that this is a rightful situation case of self-defense. Otherwise, this is not a territorial — in other words, this is not a territorial issue.
CHARLIE ROSE : But you are against an independent Kurdistan.
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through translator) : Let me tell you this : In Iraq, we cannot speak of what is going to happen as far as an administrative structure there. We are not in a position to assist it, but we have one goal, and that is the central government in Iraq.
CHARLIE ROSE : A strong central government ?
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through translator) : For that to happen, Turkey will do what she can to help. Any structure that will endanger the future of Iraq will no doubt be a cause for concern for the region as a whole and it would endanger the territorial integrity of Iraq.
We speak or talk of al Qaeda. The name of the terrorist organization is not maybe as important as what it does, because if it`s terror, it`s terror, and we have to fight against it. That`s where the issue lies. If that terrorist activity is based in northern Iraq right now, we have to take whatever measures we can and we must take. And that is the struggle we`re in. Countries that have suffered from terrorism will know what this means and what it feels like, how it feels like, and they understand what rightful struggle this is.
So, to us, a divided Iraq would be a reason of instability for the future of Iraq.
CHARLIE ROSE : So you are against some kind of loose federalism, with shared oil revenues, you would be against that ? Because you want a strong central government, not a loose federal ?
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through translator) : Of course, administratively
speaking, every country will have its own system. In the U.S. it`s
different, in Germany it`s different. So to me, that is not the main
issue. So we should not be losing sight of the important facts. That`s
— and the fact is territorial integrity of Iraq.
That`s the question we need to answer. And if we find a good answer, an ideal answer, we`ll solve the problem.
CHARLIE ROSE : Just one last question about Iraq. What timetable do you think ought to be in place for the removal, evacuation of American troops ? By the end of 2008 ?
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through translator) : It`s not our job to give a timeline. It`s the one — people who are responsible, the actors in this, who must decide it. But I think it would be wrong to have an immediate withdrawal of all the troops. It has to be stage by stage, step by step, over a certain period of time. And one must look at the conditions on the ground at the time as well, because having a withdrawal all at once would create or could create more crises or difficulties.
But if that timeline were to be announced, that is going to help, I think, because it will provide a greater sense of responsibility for them.
CHARLIE ROSE : How would you assess U.S.-Turkish relations today ? Have they been damaged by the Iraqi war ?
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through translator) : There has been talk of that, but from our point of view, no, there was no damage to the relationship. Politically, socially, culturally, militarily, we have relations with the United States in many fields, and at the time there were some difficulties, at the time of the war, but the problems did not arise from our side. Because we do not view Turkish-American relations in a simplistic manner, because for us, we believe that the relation is a very strong one.
For example, we have no problems in our political relationship right now. I would like to see more economic relations, though, because I think it`s very simplistic at this moment, it`s very small. Our volume of trade is about $11 billion U.S. dollars at the moment, which is a very small number for a country the size of United States and a country like Turkey. That commercial relationship ought to have been expressed in much greater numbers. And we are working very hard on that.
We hope to see American investors in Turkey, because Turkey has now a very good — a confident market, and we would like to see more American investors coming and investing in Turkey. The investors who already exist in Turkey say that they are very happy with the investment they`ve made when I speak to them. And in this next term, I think there will be more reason to invest, especially — we have expectations on more foreign direct investments.
On the political side, we have our cooperation at NATO, which is still ongoing. We have the same kind of military cooperation. So there`s no problem on that front either.
>>>From this point forward, we hope that this will keep moving and
growing. As for contributing to global peace and prosperity, there, of course, we`re always ready to do whatever we can to help.
CHARLIE ROSE : Tell me what you think of Orhan Pamuk, Nobel laureate.
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through translator) : You just said that he won the Nobel Prize for literature. Of course, here is citizen, a Turkish citizen, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, we would be very proud of this and we are very proud of it, and very happy indeed that he has been given this award for literature, that he is a Nobel laureate. It`s a sense of pride for us. I congratulated him, and I hope that he continue to be successful. I think he will be.
CHARLIE ROSE : And will not be restrained in what he might say publicly on Turkish issues ?
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through translator) : As you know, the judiciary is independent to make its own decisions. It`s not our job. It`s their job. And it`s the same everywhere in the world.
I may not agree with everything Orhan Pamuk says. He may not agree with everything I say. That`s understandable, and that`s something everybody should accept. But his success in his area, in his field is world-renowned. He has been awarded the Nobel Prize. So with respect to the judicial process itself, we cannot in any way intervene with the decisions of the court, but as far as I know, there are no more issues.
CHARLIE ROSE : There are no more. He said that to me, yes.
Turkey has a very flourishing economy. It`s growing at 9 or 10 percent, yes ? Seventeenth largest economy in the world.
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through translator) : In the last 22 quarters, we have had 7.3 percent growth.
CHARLIE ROSE : 7.3. That`s still good. Tell me both economically and politically, because of your recent political success, enhancing your opportunity, any misconceptions about Turkey and any role that you want Turkey to play in the world ?
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through translator) : One point I would like to underline : A very important area in the world. So this is a region of strategic importance. And in this region, it is not enough for us only to grasp the importance of the role that we can play. Our friends, too, must well understand the role that Turkey can play. And we must, of course, continue to develop ourselves to be able to fulfill that role. And that`s what we have been doing and we continue to do.
And therefore, the economy was very important for us, and there have been very good developments in the economic area, but it`s also important to maintain that development, that level of development, because we have to our north the Caucuses, and Iran and Central Asia to our east, the Caspian as well. To the west, Europe. And in the south, you have all the way to the Gulf.
So this is the geography that Turkey is in. And you see different civilizations in that geography.
On the one hand, you have Europe. On the other hand, you have Asia.
So this all makes up the Turkish geography.
Turkey is a very important bridge between different cultures and civilizations. And as a democratic, secular country whose population is predominantly Muslim, it has shown to the world that those things can exist together. And that is, in my opinion, very important and it has its reflections through the region, and it constitutes therefore an example.
So when we came to government, we had per capita income which was $2,500 U.S. dollars. In five years, it went up to $6,000. The inflation rate was at around 30 percent. It is now down to single-digit figures, at 6.9 percent. Interest rates were 63, 64 percent. Now down to 17. So these are all very important developments.
Our GDP went up to $400 billion U.S. from $181 billion five years ago. And we have even greater targets for the future. And this creates a lot of confidence in the region, too, what Turkey is doing.
We are also making friends, not enemies, and this is what we try to do in other parts of the world as well.
CHARLIE ROSE : Thank you for this time. It`s very good to see you again and I look forward to...
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through translator) : One more thing I want to say, if you`ll let me. We don`t always have this opportunity to appear on television, so I would like to take this opportunity to say the following.
Most recently, there`s been a lot of discussion about this so-called Armenian genocide issue. There`s a wrong approach here. This issue is not first and foremost an issue for us, the politicians, to deal with. It must first be discussed by historians.
I wrote a letter to President Kocharian to ask him to come, and together with us, help establish a commission, a joint commission, that would include archeologists, political sciences, legal experts, historians and others. And I said that we should put all our archives at each other`s disposal.
We opened our archives, and I asked him to open theirs if they have archives, and the third countries can also do the same thing, and avail their archives. So this joint commission could then work in these archives, and we could then see or look at the reports.
And once we get those reports, then we can reach a decision. Because if there is, there has been a crime, we are ready to settle our accounts with our history.
But we know that that is not the case, so it would be wrong to misrepresent this situation, and we should not give the opportunity to those who want to somehow make use of this situation.
I have Armenian citizens in my country. And everyone knows how freely they live in Turkey. And I just want to say that it would be wrong to generalize certain individual issues and cases. The generalization should not be made victim of individual cases.
Ever since I came — we came to government, we have now direct flights between two countries. On the eastern part of Turkey, there`s an island called Akdamar on the Van lake. On that island, there`s a church, an Armenian church. And we restored that church by using our money, government treasury money, and it has been open, the church is open. So there`s no problems with their lives in Turkey.
CHARLIE ROSE : I`m glad you brought that up. And obviously, that was what — it`s an important issue raised by the Armenians, and whether there was a genocide in the early 20th century. It`s a — you seem to be saying that you are prepared to see a thorough investigation of this issue and look at all the facts, and then to characterize it for what it was. And if, in fact, it was a genocide, you are prepared to recognize it, but you firmly believe it wasn`t.
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through translator) : That is absolutely right.
And we`re saying that nevertheless, it should be researched. It should be looked at. And we did already open our archives for that research.
More than one million documents are available now, and if Yerevan did the same, why not. If there are third countries, if they have any documentation, they should make them available. Why not ? Let`s move forward with this. Why should we be afraid ? Why should anyone be afraid ? Why are they afraid ? Where are the documents ? Because it`s — you cannot have this accusation without facts. The lobbies and the discussions, those cannot be sufficient to judge a country like Turkey.
CHARLIE ROSE : I hear you saying, or at least feeling that Turkey has to resolve this issue.
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through translator) : Yes, this is what I`m trying to do.
CHARLIE ROSE : Again, thank you very much. Pleasure. I hope we can talk again in Turkey. I know of no one who goes to Turkey who doesn`t come back saying...
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through translator) : Well, we hope to see you in Turkey.
CHARLIE ROSE : Thank you. Thank you very much.
A conversation with the prime minister of Turkey. Thank you for joining us. See you next time.
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