Obama on the Record: Turkey Town Hall

I think it is the right approach to have Turkey join the European Union. I think if Turkey can be a member of NATO and send its troops to help protect and support its allies, and its young men are put in harm’s way, well, I don’t know why you should also not be able to sell apricots to Europe, or have more freedom in terms of travel.

So I think it’s the right thing to do. I also think it would send a strong signal that Europe is not monolithic but is diverse and that that is a source of strength instead of weakness. So that’s my opinion.

Now, President Sarkozy is a good friend and a good ally. As I said, friends are going to sometimes disagree on this. I haven’t had a lengthy conversation with him about his position on this issue. My hope is, is that as time goes on and as trust builds, that this is ultimately something that occurs.

I don’t get a sense that his opposition is related to the Armenian issue. I don’t think that’s it. I think it’s a more fundamental issue of whether he’s confident about Turkey’s ability to integrate fully. But you’ll probably have to ask him directly. So maybe when he comes here he’ll have a town hall meeting like this one.

Okay, the gentleman right there. Yes, go ahead. Here’s a microphone.

Q First, I will ask about the Bush and you differences at the core, because some say just the face has changed and that — but core is the same still. They will have a fight with the Middle East and they will have a fight with Iran.

And my second question is more in part to this. You will let the Kurdish state in northern Iraq? You will let — you’ll allow this?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Okay, the –

Q Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Yes. Well, let me answer — I’ll answer the Kurdish question first. You know, we are very clear about our position on Turkish territorial integrity. Turkey is an ally of ours and part of what NATO allies do is to protect the territorial integrity of their allies. And so we are — we would be opposed to anything that would start cutting off parts of Turkey, and we have been very supportive in efforts to reduce terrorist activity by the PKK.

Now, I also think that it’s important that the Kurdish minority inside of Turkey is free to advance in the society and that they have equal opportunity, that they have free political expression, that they are not suppressed in terms of opportunity. And I think that the President and Prime Minister are committed to that, but I want to continually encourage allowing — whether it’s religious minorities or ethnic minorities — to be full parts of the society. And that, I think, is very, very important.

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