January 22nd, 2007 05:28 EST
U.S., Turkey seek nuclear-free Iran, end to Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Washington -- Calling his meetings with top officials in Turkey a very good visit, " U.S. Under Secretary of State R. Nicholas Burns emphasized Turkey`s role as a valued strategic partner " in the effort to resolve many issues in the Middle East, including those involving Iraq, Iran and Lebanon.
Burns met with Turkey`s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullah Gul January 18-19 to discuss the current state of U.S.-Turkish relations and various issues in the Middle East. From Turkey, Burns will travel to Israel, where he will meet with Prime Minster Ehud Olmert and other top Israeli officials, and to Jerusalem, where he will meet with Palestinian officials. (See related article).
In a press availability following his meeting with Gul, Burns described his discussions with members of the Turkish government as a series of very good conversations " in which both the United States and Turkey reaffirmed their commitment to a nuclear-free Iran and peace and stability in the Middle East.
I think there`s a high degree of unity between Turkey and the United States on the need for peace in Iraq, on the need for Iran to " not become a nuclear weapons state, on the need for support for Prime Minister [Fouad Siniora] in Lebanon and the need for peace between Israel and Palestinians, " said Burns, adding, Turks can be a force for stability in the Middle East. "
In an interview with Mehmet Ali Birand, Burns thanked Turkey for its work in Afghanistan and its support for the Iraqi government and said the United States is "very grateful that we are allies in NATO." He also noted that both countries oppose the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a terrorist group fighting to create an independent Kurdish state in Turkey`s southeast region. (See related article).
Reemphasizing the United States` commitment to help the Turkish government to diminish the number and severity of PKK attacks on Turkish soldiers and civilians, " Burns urged the European community to close the political offices of the PKK.
Turning to the January 19 murder of Turkish-Armenian writer Hrant Dink, a vocal supporter of human rights and democracy, Burns expressed his condolences and called the murder "an outrageous act of criminality."
"We look forward to see Turkish justice and we look forward to see these killers brought to justice," he said.
In a separate statement, the U.S. Embassy in Ankara also expressed hope "the perpetrator of this heinous crime will quickly be brought to justice."
Transcripts of Burns` press availability and his interview with Birand, as well as a statement on Dink`s death, can be found on the Web site of U.S. Embassy in Turkey.
For more information on U.S. policy, see The Middle East: a Vision for the Future and Southeast Europe.
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
By Melody Merin
USINFO Special Correspondent