Turkish Ambassador Ready to Serve

ImageAmbassador Serdar Kilic assumed Turkey's top diplomatic post in the U.S. in April 2014, after previously serving as Turkey's Ambassador to Japan, the Secretary General of Turkey?s National Security Council, Turkey's Ambassador to Lebanon and other positions handling public policy matters, including NATO and Euro-Atlantic security and defense. This is Ambassador Kilic's second posting in the U.S., having served 26 years ago in 1989 as Vice Consul in Los Angeles. Today, Ambassador Kilic leads the largest diplomatic mission of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and pursues a dynamic diplomatic agenda for the Republic of Turkey. Below, Ambassador Kilic answered our questions about U.S.-Turkish relations and current events.
Q: How would you describe the current state of U.S. - Turkey relations?
A: Turkish-U.S relations go a long time back in history, including more than 60 year-old alliance relationship within NATO. Both countries continue to have robust political, military, economic and social ties. As the only secular democracy in the Middle East with a Muslim-majority population, Turkey is an important ally of America and we are cooperating in addressing many of the world?s greatest challenges today.

Turkey, a long-time NATO member, considers the U.S. an important geopolitical partner. We have fought shoulder to shoulder for our common values in Korea in the 1950s, in Kosovo and Bosnia in the 1990s, in Afghanistan in the 2000s and now we cooperate in Syria in a broad spectrum of areas including training and equipping the moderate opposition to bring stability to that war-torn country.
Q: Among the top international security issues, global terror stands out as a threat to nations everywhere. Can you tell us about what Turkey is doing to address global terror?
A: Well, let me begin by pointing out that much of the terrorist activities executed by groups such as DEASH, or ISIL as the group is commonly referred to, is a by-product of the instability in parts of the Middle East. Syria has become a primary breeding ground for extremist indoctrination and training, and until we address the source of the problem, fight the sectarian divide and help the establishment of a stable, legitimate and inclusive political environment that embraces all Syrian citizens, we may continue to face these same threats again.

With that said, Turkey is doing its utmost to fight terrorism. As Turkey is a country that straddles both Europe and Asia and hosts some 35 million tourists each year, stopping foreign fighters who attempt to cross its borders with the intent on traveling to Syria is a very difficult task. Nevertheless, in the past two years alone, 125,000 people have been stopped by Turkish forces while attempting to illegally cross the Syrian border. And as of March of this year, we added 12,550 people from 93 countries to our no-entry list. In addition, Turkey has taken steps to physically seal our more than 500-mile border with Syria by constructing hundreds of miles of fencing and barriers, as well as deploying additional army units and enhancing security measures at certain border gates.

Q: How does the Syrian civil-war and resulting refugee crisis complicate security measures?
A: Turkey is diligently working to balance the humanitarian need to provide safe harbor for the millions of refugees fleeing the conflict that has already killed more than 200,000 civilians in Syria with the need to ensure that terrorists are not using the country as a transit route. Turkey has taken the lead in addressing this issue, which is becoming the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time, by sheltering over 1.7 million refugees ? many of whom have been separated from their families and homes for more than four years now. In total, Turkey has thus far spent more than $5.5 billion U.S. dollars for the Syrian refugees to provide health care, schooling, and other necessary aid.

Q: What are Turkey?s goals towards ending the conflict in Syria compared with that of the U.S.?
A: Turkey and the U.S. share a common perspective on realizing the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people and leading the global fight against DEASH and international terror. Both countries envision a political transition which will lead to the establishment of an inclusive and legitimate government for all Syrians regardless of their ethnic or religious background. Turkey and the U.S. are working to build lasting peace and stability in Syria. As we have done so many times in the past, Turkey and the U.S. will continue in the future to work together to address these challenges.

Q: What is the current state of U.S.-Turkey economic relations? Are there any areas that could be improved?
A: My goal as an Ambassador is to diversify the areas of cooperation and further strengthen the relations between our countries in all fields. Economic cooperation is one of the most important aspects that I want to promote. Indeed, bolstering trade and investment between our two countries is very important, and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker has also stated that the U.S. shares the same approach.

Turkey has a lot to offer to American companies. If you look at the world map, you will see that Turkey is a natural economic hub to Caucasia, Central Asia and the Middle East. American companies should consider Turkey not only as a final destination for their business activities but also as a gateway to open up their businesses to the surrounding geographies. We provide easy access to diverse regional markets and today many multinational companies are taking advantage of Turkey?s geographical position by moving their headquarters from Europe and Southeast Asia to Turkey. In this regard, more than 1,000 American companies have made Turkey their home. Between 2001 and 2013, U.S. total foreign direct investment in Turkey was at $7,132 billion while Turkish businesses made a total direct investment of $ 1,349 billion in the United States. These numbers can increase even more should Turkey and the U.S. sign a free trade agreement. Turkey?s participation in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations with Europe will also multiply the scope of our trade relations.
Q: Can you tell us a little about cultural cooperation and social exchanges between the U.S. and Turkey?
A: Our cultural bond with America is deep-rooted and over the past century, our cultural relations have expanded tremendously. Today we have a very vibrant Turkish-American community in the United States ? close to 500,000 Turks call this country their home. This community continues to make important contributions to the American society. Muhtar Kent, CEO of the Coca Cola Company, Dr. Mehmet Oz, the famous TV personality, are just two of the notable Turkish-Americans. Not to mention that Atlantic Records, which contributed to modern American music, was founded by Ahmet and Nesuhi Erteg
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07