Obama on the Record: Address to Turkish Parliament

As we go forward, the United States and Turkey can pursue many opportunities to serve prosperity for our people, particularly when it comes to energy. To expand markets and create jobs, we can increase trade and investment between our countries. To develop new sources of energy and combat climate change, we should build on our Clean Technology Fund to leverage efficiency and renewable energy investments in Turkey. And to power markets in Turkey and Europe, the United States will continue to support your central role as an East-West corridor for oil and natural gas.

This economic cooperation only reinforces the common security that Europe and the United States share with Turkey as a NATO ally, and the common values that we share as democracies. So in meeting the challenges of the 21st century, we must seek the strength of a Europe that is truly united, peaceful and free.

Let me be clear: the United States strongly supports Turkey’s bid to become a member of the European Union. We speak not as members of the EU, but as close friends of Turkey and Europe. Turkey has been a resolute ally and a responsible partner in transatlantic and European institutions. And Turkey is bound to Europe by more than bridges over the Bosphorous. Centuries of shared history, culture, and commerce bring you together. Europe gains by diversity of ethnicity, tradition and faith – it is not diminished by it. And Turkish membership would broaden and strengthen Europe’s foundation once more.

Turkey has its own responsibilities. You have made important progress toward membership. But I also know that Turkey has pursued difficult political reforms not simply because it’s good for Europe, but because it is right for Turkey.

In the last several years, you have abolished state-security courts and expanded the right to counsel. You have reformed the penal code, and strengthened laws that govern the freedom of the press and assembly. You lifted bans on teaching and broadcasting Kurdish, and the world noted with respect the important signal sent through a new state Kurdish television station.

These achievements have created new laws that must be implemented, and a momentum that should be sustained. For democracies cannot be static – they must move forward. Freedom of religion and expression lead to a strong and vibrant civil society that only strengthens the state, which is why steps like reopening the Halki Seminary will send such an important signal inside Turkey and beyond. An enduring commitment to the rule of law is the only way to achieve the security that comes from justice for all people. Robust minority rights let societies benefit from the full measure of contributions from all citizens.

I say this as the President of a country that not too long ago made it hard for someone who looks like me to vote. But it is precisely that capacity to change that enriches our countries. Every challenge that we face is more easily met if we tend to our own democratic foundation. This work is never over. That is why, in the United States, we recently ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed, and prohibited – without exception or equivocation – any use of torture.

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