Under present circumstances, US Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone does not foresee a military intervention in Syria. However, he asserts that the regime of [Bashar] al-Assad must realize that it cannot shed blood as it wishes. Ricciardone declares: “This regime must go.”
Ambassador Ricciardone met in Ankara with representatives from Turkish newspapers to answer their questions:
Q. Did the US provide the intelligence [for the attack on] Uludere [in which 24 Turkish civilians were killed by friendly fire]?
A. We were not involved in determining the targets at Uludere. We provide intelligence support to Turkey against the PKK, but the determination of targets for military strikes is up to Turkey. Turkey has that capability.
Q. Was this incident in any way connected to Nevada [the command center for Predator drones]?
A. Uludere was a tragic incident. Many people lost their lives. It shouldn’t have happened. We were in no way involved with this incident nor with determining the targets of [airstrikes].
Q. In the four-hour long surveillance recordings over Uludere, were any images captured by Predator [drones]?
A. I don’t want to give any information on where, when and how the Predators are employed. This is a military secret and it is for the good of your soldiers that the PKK does not have access to this information in advance.
Q. Do you have any comments on the debates underway [in Turkey] on the freedom of the press?
A. Though I risk being misunderstood, let me say it again: Turkey is country which aspires to be a first class democracy. How could such a country detain or imprison intellectuals? These actions don’t make sense in a country that values freedoms.
Q. Are you saying that there is a problem with freedom of expression [in Turkey]?
A. I think that the issue of freedom of expression in Turkey must be monitored. Why are certain intellectuals still in prison? If these people were guilty of throwing bombs in an attempt to topple the government, I could understand. People should not be thrown in jail for uttering unpleasant or critical remarks [about their government]. [Journalists] should be able to express angry thoughts. They should be able to criticize their government. Intellectuals should be free. I am not saying that what we see is dark and sinister. The glass is half full.
Q. How do you view the Syrian situation?
A. Both Turkey and the United States desire a peaceful, non-violent transition [of power]. We are aiming to provide dignity and security for the people.
Q. Is a [military] intervention possible in Syria?
A. I do not foresee an intervention. [An intervention] would only be possible in conditions that do not yet exist. The Syrian government is using its guns to kill its own people, this is unacceptable. Sanctions are required. The current regime must understand that it cannot spill blood at its whim. This regime must go.
Q. A verbal argument took place between [Turkish] Prime Minister Erdogan and [Iraqi] Prime Minister Maliki [regarding the arrest warrant issued for Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi]. Did you try to mitigate this problem?
A. We respect the domestic affairs of Iraq, and we don’t interfere in them. We have the same desires as the Turkish government. We want a single unified Iraq, where sectarian problems are dealt with within a democratic, constitutional framework.
Q. What is happening in the Strait of Hormuz?
A. International energy security depends on [free passage of oil tankers through] the Strait of Hormuz. We will oppose attempts to impede navigation.
Q. [What developments are underway] regarding sanctions against Iran?
A. Iran wants to acquire nuclear weapons. How can we dissuade them from this? We don’t want a military solution, but all options are still on the table. At the moment, we are using diplomatic means. Turkey supports the UN sanctions, and we are satisfied with that.
Q. Is the [NATO] radar station at Kurecik-Malatya active?
A. Yes, it is fully operational. This is not missile system, but a radar system. It is meant to defend against enemy missiles.
Q. What are your opinions on the law recently passed by the French parliament on the events that took place in 1915 [regarding the alleged genocide of Armenians]?
A. I don’t want to comment on that. We in the US want the Turkish and Armenian sides to deal with the events of 1915 in a just and comprehensive manner. Both sides must bring their historians together.
Q. Could there be a bill similar to the French on the agenda in the US?
A. [Turkey aims] to join the G10 on the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the republic. We support [its bid to enter the G10]. To get there, the ghosts of the past must be confronted.
Q. What do you mean?
A. Any country may have lived through painful times. The past anger must not be repeated. We have to learn from history. We must accept the pain of the past, learn from our experiences and establish new relations.
Q. Are you speaking of an apology?
A. I think the Turkish and Armenian peoples should decide among themselves the kind of language they will use with one another. “Apology” is a very serious term. The countries will have to decide [on the terminology] on their own.