Examination of Witnesses (Questions 220
WEDNESDAY 13 MARCH 2002
STRAW, MP, MR
CMG AND MR
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
(Mr Ricketts) I agree with the Foreign Secretary,
(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
(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.