Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 220 - 229)




  220. Would you do that?
  (Mr Straw) Yes.

  Chairman: I am obliged.

Sir John Stanley

  221. Foreign Secretary, after the months of tortuous negotiations with Turkey on its position on ESDP and access to NATO assets, the issue was finally resolved at the end of last year. I wonder whether you could share with the Committee your view as to what was the factor, or factors, which finally enabled the Turkish Government to bless the compromise solution?
  (Mr Straw) A degree of finality was achieved with Turkey in the Berlin-plus text. It is not an issue that is closed so far as the Government of Greece is concerned. I will ask Mr Ricketts, who was directly involved in the negotiations which were US-UK-Turkey, as you will recall, to offer his view about this. This is the $64,000 question. Why does a party to a negotiation finally decide to come to an agreement? Because they think it is in their interest. A lot of work was done in the room and behind the scenes as well, a good deal of reassurance offered to Turkey. It is my belief that our negotiators, Mr Ricketts and his colleagues, for the US Mr Bradtke, and Turkey, did a very good job between them and the text is one that protects Turkey's interests but also happens to protect Greece's interests as well and I hope very much that it is acceptable to the Government of Greece. Mr Ricketts?
  (Mr Ricketts) I agree with the Foreign Secretary, as always.
  (Mr Straw) Only ever in public I should say, as always.
  (Mr Ricketts) During the negotiation where Turkey did have concerns, they were explored and we were able to give reassurances within the scope of the Nice European Council conclusions which set out the EU position on participation by countries like Turkey. We had a lot of help from the United States who made it very clear that they attach a lot of importance to Turkey coming to an understanding with the EU which would allow Turkey to participate in EU-led military operations. I think in the end they took an overall judgment against the background of the reassurances and clarifications that they had that it was in Turkey's interest to take a positive view towards participation in ESDP on the terms set out. That was very welcome to us but there was nothing beyond what was discussed over the negotiating table, I think.

  222. Foreign Secretary, I thought the answer that you might be offering to me was bilateral US pressure on the Turkish Government.
  (Mr Straw) I am sorry that it was not. They came to their view is the answer. Obviously they made a strategic decision in the round. I think we are all aware of the sensitivities of both the Turks and the Greeks about this issue and I genuine believe, having got parts of the text, particularly paragraphs two and 12, embedded in my brain, that it is in the interests of Turkey, it is in the interests of Greece, it is in the interests of both NATO and the EU. Greece and Turkey and the US and the UK are allies who all subscribe to the NATO treaties.

  223. I am well aware of that.
  (Mr Straw) I know you are.

  224. And well aware that sometimes it has to be repeated to be believed when one sees what happens on the ground occasionally. Do you think it will be possible to have the Greeks on board on this issue without once again losing the Turks?
  (Mr Straw) I can only say I hope so. The discussions on this continue. Palpably, if there is to be a conclusion, a closure of this issue, we have to secure a situation where both the Turks and the Greeks are on board.

  225. It is a matter, you would agree, of the highest priority, both from an EU standpoint and a NATO standpoint, that this issue is resolved.
  (Mr Straw) Yes.

  226. Can you give the Committee any indication what steps the UK and US Governments are taking now to actually finally close it, so we can establish a proper working relationship between NATO and ESDP?
  (Mr Straw) Yes, it is of importance. I will ask Mr Ricketts to add some detail. We continue to discuss it and offer reassurance by turn to Turkey and then to Greece. I am sure it will be discussed in the margins at Barcelona.
  (Mr Ricketts) We have now made clear in our Laeken EU Council Declaration last December that the ESDP is able to take on some crisis management operations. That makes it all the more important and urgent, as you say, Sir John, that we get the right EU-NATO links in place. As the Foreign Secretary says, I am sure the issue will continue to be discussed around the Barcelona European Council this weekend.

  227. With urgency, I hope.
  (Mr Ricketts) Certainly.


  228. Foreign Secretary, a final question. Turkey applied to join what was then the European Economic Community some 40 years or so ago, it will be sometime before Turkey is clear as to whether it will be able to join the European Union, what are we able to do to keep the connection to ensure there is not a disillusion or a feeling within Turkey that they are being excluded?
  (Mr Straw) A lot. Develop the relationship, which is what we are seeking to do. This is not just soft-soap, but I think that visits by senior parliamentarians like yourselves are very important, and the fact that, reading the telegrams, you appeared to spend four days there, which is a lot of your time, in two visits to population centres, is very important. By definition, in the time I have been doing this job, most countries in the world have not been able to visit at all, I have visited Turkey twice however and I regard the relationship we have with the Government of Turkey as very important. The closest one is the one I have with Ismail Cem, who is the Turkish Foreign Minister, but I also regard the relationships I have, we have, with Prime Minister Ecevit and the President as important as well. We need to continue to develop and underpin the diplomatic/political relationship. We also have to ensure there is a sense of momentum on negotiations with the EU and, something we have not discussed but which is of profound importance, ensure that the support which has been given successively to Turkey through the IMF for its economic reform and recovery is successful because there is in any country a direct linkage between people's sense of economic well-being, their willingness and ability to be involved in democracy and their readiness to look forward rather than backwards.

  229. That is very helpful. Thank you, Foreign Secretary and your colleagues, for your contributions.
  (Mr Straw) Thank you.

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