McConnell Comments on Turkish President’s Visit to the White House
‘I urge this body to remain clear-eyed about our nation’s vital interests in the Middle East and the fact that advancing them will mean strengthening our relationship with this NATO ally, not weakening it further.’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding national security:
“Today, President Trump will host the leader of Turkey at the White House.
“Although I have expressed concerns about granting President Erdogan such an honor in light of his recent actions, I hope the meeting produces better behavior from this important NATO ally.
“We recognize Turkey’s legitimate national security concerns about the destabilizing conflict in Syria. Indeed, no NATO ally has suffered more terrorist attacks or hosts more refugees than Turkey. Nevertheless, we have legitimate national security concerns of our own, and I know the vast majority of my colleagues share my concerns about Turkey’s recent behaviors.
“It is important for the region and the fight against ISIS that Turkey’s incursion into Syria not further jeopardize the anti-terrorism campaign of the Syrian Democratic Forces.
“And it is important for Turkey’s 80 million people that Turkey’s government moves to restore its democratic traditions – freedom of the press, religious freedom, respect for secularism and ethnic minorities, and a robust space for civil society.
“Despite the optimism from the Obama administration and others that Turkey under President Erdogan would be a model democracy, in practice, these important values have suffered under his tenure.
“As the Turkish people’s concern continues growing, it is troubling that the political space for them to express those concerns has seemed to shrink further.
“But at the same time, the United States must recognize that the path to addressing our concerns involves working with this important NATO ally and aligning its interests with ours.
“Turning a cold shoulder altogether would be a major strategic misstep and would jeopardize our national security and our interests. We do not need Turkey to fall further into Moscow’s orbit. I know my colleagues are looking to see whether a deal can be reached on the S-400 air defense system.
“So I share my colleagues’ uneasiness at seeing President Erdogan honored at the White House.
“But I urge this body to remain clear-eyed about our nation’s vital interests in the Middle East and the fact that advancing them will mean strengthening our relationship with this NATO ally, not weakening it further.”
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