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Remarks by President Clinton at State Dinner in Ankara, Turkey

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For Immediate Release November 15, 1999


Presidential Palace
Ankara, Turkey

9:05 P.M. (L)

THE PRESIDENT: President and Mrs. Demirel, Prime Minister and Mrs. Ecevit, to the government coalition partners, the other parliamentary leaders, Mr. Speaker, distinguished Turkish and American friends.

Let me begin by thanking you, Mr. President, for the wonderful reception. I am delighted to see so many friends of our two countries at a moment of great optimism for our relationship, tempered by great sadness over the tragedy of the earthquakes you have suffered.

President Eisenhower visited Turkey for a day in 1959. President Bush came for two days in 1991. I am proud to be spending five days here. Every visit seems to be twice as long as the last one. (Laughter and applause.) The good news is, our partnership is becoming more important every year. The bad news is, that if American Presidents keep this up, some day one of us will not be welcome here. (Laughter.)

Our relations go back to the beginning of the United States. Not long after our country was created, a high official, the Grand Senor, at what was then Constantinople, saw a ship flying the American flag sail into the harbor. Because the flag with stars on it was considered to be a lucky sign, he predicted then that the people of Turkey and the United States would enjoy a long friendship. Now, his prophecy has come to pass.

Our friendship deepened more than 50 years ago, when another ship sailed into the Bosphorus. I'm told that every citizen of your country then alive remembers the day the United States ship, Missouri, arrived to protect the peace in the uncertain days following World War II. That sent a message that America will always be there when our Turkish friends need us.

Since then, it's been equally true that each time our common interests have been imperiled, the Turkish people have been there alongside America. This fall, another American vessel came to Turkey, under tragic circumstances, when the Kearsarge arrived to assist the victims of the earthquake. Now, Turkey again has suffered natural disaster. And again I send the same simple message: please, let us know what we can do to help, and we will be there.

How we use our friendship will do much to define the century we are about to begin. What we do together will help to determine whether peace takes hold in the Middle East, whether tolerance takes root in the Balkans, whether young democracies succeed in the Caucasus. The way we do business together will help to determine whether our people have the jobs and reliable sources of energy necessary well into the new century. What we have stood for together, most recently in Kosovo, will help to decide whether the coming century is marked by democracy, rooted in our common humanity, or by tyranny feeding off hatred.

I must take a moment tonight to express my appreciation for the contributions to the United States of our citizens of Turkish descent. Just last week, a remarkable Turkish-American, named Kenan Sahin, gave $100 million to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology out of gratitude for the education he received there. Ahmet Ertegun was the son of a Turkish Ambassador to the United States who grew up in Washington. But instead of attending diplomatic events like this one, he spent most of his time going out to hear rhythm and blues musicians.

When he founded Atlantic Records, he fundamentally changed the history of modern American music in ways that have greatly enriched every single citizen of our country and hundreds of millions of people throughout the world. When we finished shaking hands with all of you tonight, the President said, well, I know that was a long line, but I wanted you to see the face of modern Turkey. Well, I have had the opportunity to see the face of modern Turkey, and I am confident that when it comes to our relationship and our common endeavors, the best is yet to come.

Mr. President, we are grateful for your leadership and all you have done in your distinguished career. Fifty years ago, you came to the United States to study and work among us. When we celebrated our bicentennial in 1976, you wrote a moving essay describing how your first visit persuaded you of the importance of, and I use your words, "providing full opportunities to all citizens, regardless of birth, origin and creed."

Mr. President, though your engineering days are over, I am proud of the bridges you have helped us to build together. I ask all of you to join Hillary, me and our American delegation in a toast to the President and Mrs. Demirel, Prime Minister and Mrs. Ecevit, and the people of Turkey.

(A toast was offered.) (Applause.)

END 9:17 P.M. (L)

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Europe 1999 Remarks: November 15-20

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