With security guards stationed in the audience and at the back of the David L. Call Auditorium in Kennedy last night, former Turkish president H. E. Suleyman Demirel spoke to students and faculty about Turkish – U.S. relations and how they have been affected by political changes in the Middle East.
The lecture, entitled, “Turkish – U.S. Relations: the New Political Landscape of the Middle East since the Collapse of the U.S.S.R.” was part of Demirel’s three-day visit to Cornell. Ninth president of the Republic of Turkey from 1993-2000, Demirel is credited with accelerating Turkey’s development and industrialization through his aggressive economic growth policy.
The lecture began with a welcome from Prof. Norman Scott, biological and environmental engineering, and opening remarks from Robert L. King, chancellor of the State University of New York (SUNY). “There are few people anywhere in the world who have had a greater positive impact on the people of their country than Suleyman has. You are in for a treat,” King said.
Attendee William Culley ’06 said, “I came to the lecture because I didn’t know what role Turkey played in the current world situation. I left with so much more knowledge and a greater respect for present day Turkey.”
When Demirel took the stage, he immediately spoke of common values shared by Turkey and the United States: democracy, human rights and a market economy.
“We are in the process of building a bridge between the two shores of the Atlantic. Our partnership with the U.S. has been strong and flawless,” Demirel said.
He then spoke of the countries’ strained relations in the past, but acknowledged that with today’s terrorism threats and the fragile frontier, “the U.S. cannot alone provide security to each citizen, even through their power.” Stressing interdependency, Demirel said, “The U.S. needs partners to create new order”
He charted Turkey’s progress over the past several years, both internally and externally.
“Our economy went from being based on agriculture to being export-oriented. Turkey has also consolidated its democracy — our head is above the waters.”
The former president emphasized Turkey’s support and empathy for the U.S. after the attacks on Sept. 11.
“We must cooperate and collaborate — Turkey is committed to fully embracing Iraq. Iraq should be kept as a whole and free,” Demirel said.
He stressed that Turkey has agreed to U.S. requests to send Turkish soldiers to Iraq, yet he said that if efforts fail “it will be a disaster.”
Turning to the Middle East, Demirel said that Turkey has good relations with both the Palestinians and Israelis. “The future of the roadmap is uncertain. The failure of one process [in Iraq or the Middle East] will block the other process,” he said.
Demeril wants to solve the economic and social problems of Palestine and tweak Israel’s security needs. He concluded: “I believe that Turkey and the U.S. have to act together. If they are not able to cooperate in one thing, there are many other things to cooperate in. We, the Turks are keen to bolster the spirit of partnership.”
Only through partnership does Demeril believe we can “put an end to terrorism, stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and create peace in the Middle East.” he said.
Cornell and SUNY have been working with universities in Turkey for over a year now. Their goal is to build relations between the two countries, partly by sending and receiving faculty to and from Turkey.
CALS International Programs, the Department of Near Eastern Studies, the Einaudi Center for International Studies and the Institute for European Studies cosponsored the lecture.
Archived article by Jessica Liebman