TURKEY: Turkish-US relations: built on strong foundations
Thomas Cromwell

Ambassador Faruk Logoglu is soft-spoken and articulate. With a PhD in political science from Princeton, and a long and distinguished career as a diplomat, he makes an able representative of Turkey at a time when rapid changes in global affairs have brought some tensions into an otherwise strong bilateral relationship.

The ambassador describes his country's ties with the United States as "healthy and forward-looking." He says bilateral relations rest on "strong and durable foundations of shared values and convergent interests." He points out that they have been "tested by time and events, but have endured."

One of the most severe tests of recent times has been during the ambassador's tenure in Washington, where he took up his post in September 2001, shortly after the terror attacks on New York and Washington. The attacks focused unprecedented American attention on the wider Middle East region, where Turkey is a key ally of the United States and the sole member of NATO.

Turkey proved a valuable partner in Operation Enduring Freedom to remove the Taliban from power in Afghanistan, but tensions arose between Washington and Ankara in 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom when the Turkish parliament, by a slim majority, denied the United States permission to send troops into Iraq from Turkish territory, forcing a major re-deployment through Kuwait.

The ambassador says that there were lessons to be learned from the experience. "Even with your closest friends you have to keep consulting… without holding expectations." He says, "America was so steeped in what it wanted" that it had difficulty recognizing Turkey's own particular interests and sensitivities in the situation.

He points out that Turkey has long-standing, ongoing interests in Iraq, which arguably are much greater than America's. Iraq is not only a neighbor, but also was the base from which the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) for years launched attacks against Turkey.

Also, much of Iraq's oil transits Turkish territory to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan.

Taking a wider perspective, Turkey sits at the center of a region that is swirling with instability and is the focus of the war on terror: Central Asia to the north and east, Iran to the east, Iraq to the southeast, Israel and Palestine to the south, and the Balkans to the west and north. And, to top all of this off, the situation on Cyprus, in which Turkey has an enormous stake, has reached a crisis point as tensions over how the divided island will enter the European Union came to a head as the May 1 deadline approached.

Ambassador Logoglu says that Washington after its initial frustration over Ankara's refusal to allow American troops to cross its territory to Iraq, came to the realization that, "this is democracy at work." In other words, while it would have preferred a different Turkish response, in the bigger picture, the ostensible purpose of the war in Iraq and US policy in the region in general is the spread of democracy, such that the Turkish response was in fact a demonstration of democracy taking root in the area, and a good thing.

The ambassador says that since then, Washington has been more careful, "making sure that they have our views on all issues in a timely manner."

He also points out that the same Turkish parliament that had opposed US wishes, later voted to deploy a large force to Iraq, a deployment that could not be implemented because of resistance from the Iraqi side, where long-standing concerns about Turkey's intentions, especially among the Kurds, resulted in Iraqi opposition to the deployment.

And, too, many of the American troop rotations are being implemented through Turkey, and Turkey is actively engaged in several reconstruction activities, including training of police, diplomats and other civil servants, as well as rebuilding projects and providing supplies.

At the same time, the ambassador points out that the prospect of NATO taking on a larger role in Iraq would open the door for Turkey to increase its work there, acting in conjunction with fellow-NATO members. Whether this involvement would include Turkish troops, "remains to be seen," the ambassador says.

 "We have more at stake in Iraq than most, including the United States," he points out. "We want Iraq to succeed. And we want to help."

The ambassador also confirms that Turkey's policy is to help Iraq remain a unified state, and to work against any trends towards disintegration. Our "official policy is to help Iraq stay together," he says.

Asked what his view of the recent upsurge in violence against American and allied forces in Iraq, he says it is "too early to despair. Elements opposed to the United States will do what they can to give the appearance of an uprising."

The ambassador points out that the situation will change significantly after June 30. From then, whoever takes over will have to take security very seriously, as their very survival as the new rulers of Iraq will be at stake.

Speaking about Turkish politics, he says that the ruling AK Party has made significant steps in improving governance in Turkey, the main reason they were swept to power in a landslide.

"In 2002, people told the established parties: 'You could not deliver on jobs, you could not cut inflation and you could not end corruption.' So they voted them out of power."

He says the party should not be characterized as Islamist, but rather as a religious-oriented conservative group, along the lines of Germany's Christian Democrats.

He says that with the AK Party in power, "Politics is no longer the distribution of spoils: giving jobs to hundreds of thousands of supporters when you win a national election."

Also, public banks are no longer being used for political purposes. In the past they were notorious for making loans for political reasons rather than financially sound ones. This practice has stopped, with significant benefits evident in the economy.

Turkey has in recent history been dogged by very high inflation rates, usually in the 70 percent a year range. Now the rate has been radically lowered, to 12 percent, and should be further reduced to single digits.

And, welcome news to many, the Central Bank in 2005 will cut six zeros from the inflated currency, turning a country of millionaires and billionaires into ordinary folk with a more manageable currency.

The ambassador says that the changes in political culture have been so profound, that, "Every party now has to follow the new reality: deliver services to all parts of the country and all segments of the population."

He believes that "If the government continues to deliver on economic, daily life issues, and keeps Turkey on track in foreign relations," they will be re-elected to power.

Turkey has a vibrant economy, and now exports over $100 billion in goods and services each year, making it one of the world's top 30 trading nations. It sells some 19,000 items to 200 countries.

Nevertheless, one area in which it wishes to improve is in attracting Foreign Direct Investment. The anemic levels of FDI have led to "a realization that there is something fundamentally wrong," the ambassador says. To fix the problem, several new laws have been enacted that cut red tape and improve the climate for investment. New legislation creates a level playing field for foreign and domestic investors, allows foreign ownership of property, and speeds procedures for registering companies. 

There are still some issues to be tackled, though, such as implementing better protection of intellectual property rights. The ambassador says that Turkey now accepts international arbitration of disputes, an important step to encourage FDI.

"I expect greater US investment in Turkey, and more American tourists," he says. (The US is currently #4 in FDI.)

He points out that Turkey is on the path to eventual membership in the European Union, the destination for over half its exports.

Commenting on the April 24th referenda in Cyprus where the Turkish Cypriots accepted and the Greek Cypriots rejected the Annan plan for unification of the island, the ambassador says: "I think the EU is highly appreciative of the positive attitude displayed by the Turkish government in supporting the Annan plan."

Turkey is deeply disappointment in the result. But, the ambassador says, "we hope the EU will now remove the issue of Cyprus from its considerations for Turkey's candidacy for membership in the EU."

With the EU, the issue for Turkey is integration, whereas with the United States, the issue for Turkey is "cooperation and collaboration."

Which brings us once more to the original point: the strong foundations for US-Turkey relations, which Ambassador Logoglu says are built on two main pillars: similar values (such as democracy, concern for human rights, equality and the rule of law) and mutual interests (such as realizing peace in the Middle East, bringing lasting democracy and freedom to Iraq, and securing energy flows from the Middle East and Caspian Basin).

"I hope we will continue to work together in the Middle East, Afghanistan and the Balkans," he says.

As a token of the strong ties that bind America and Turkey, President George W. Bush will visit Ankara in June this year for bilateral meetings before joining other NATO leaders at the organization's summit in Istanbul.


O. Faruk Logoglu is the Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to the United States of America. Ambassador Logoglu arrived in Washington, D.C. on September 23, and formally assumed his duties following the presentation of his credentials to President George W. Bush on October 10, 2001. He previously served as the Turkish Ambassador to Copenhagen, Denmark, from 1993 to 1996, and to Baku, Azerbaijan, from 1996 to 1998. He was the Undersecretary of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) from 2000 to until his current assignment to the U.S. capital.

Ambassador Logoglu joined the MFA in 1971 and has been involved in the major areas of Turkey's external relations. Earlier in his career, he worked on the Middle East and European matters at the MFA, served as First Secretary at the European Union (then EEC) from 1973 to 1976, and in Dhaka, Bangladesh, between 1976 and 1978. During the 1980s, Ambassador Logoglu, as Head of MFA Department, focused mostly on bilateral political affairs, and Cyprus and Greece issues, serving as a Counselor at the Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations in New York from 1980 to 1984, and Consul General in Hamburg, Germany, from 1986 to 1989. He was appointed as Deputy Undersecretary subsequent to his return from Baku in 1998.

Ambassador Logoglu was born in Ankara in 1941. He attended Brandeis University (Boston) where he majored in Political Science receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1963. Ambassador Logoglu then received his Ph.D. in Political Science from the Princeton University in 1969.

Ambassador Logoglu was a lecturer in Political Science at Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont, between 1969 and 1970. He is the author of Ismet Inonu and the Making of Modern Turkey, a book about the times and life of the second President of the Turkish Republic.

Ambassador Logoglu speaks English and French. He is married to Mevhibe (Mimi) Logoglu.