March 14, 2007
Matthew Bryza

Ipek Cem talked to Matt Bryza, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State of the United States on his most recent trip to Turkey. Among the topics discussed were U.S.-Turkish relations, energy pipelines and the situation in Iraq.

Ipek Cem: Our guest today is a Matthew Bryza, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State. Welcome to Global Leaders.

 

Matthew Bryza: Thank you very much Ipek very nice to be here.

 

Ipek Cem: We know that because of your position you travel frequently to Turkey. What brings you to Turkey this time?

 

Matthew Bryza: Being in Turkey is enough in itself. We have so many interests with Turkey right now and I love this city, it’s my favorite city in the world. I'm here now to talk about energy primarily now. I'm here for a major conference European Eurasian energy security and I'm also here for discussions with Energy Minister Guler and representatives of the government of Iraq to talk about the possibilities of natural gas production in northern Iraq and export of that gas through Turkey to the rest of Europe.

 

Ipek Cem: This is a very significant development in the sense that we are also expecting in the upcoming months more high level official meetings in Iraq between Turkey Iraq and the United States. Would we say this is a prelude to that?

 

Matthew Bryza: I think so, but this set of discussions we are undertaking today is more focused exclusively on our energy partnership with Turkey and with the countries in the region to help Europe diversify energy supplies. It’s a bit broader than Iraq at the same time the issues that will be discussed in the next couple of weeks will be very much Iraq focused and will have higher level participation than my humble self.

 

Ipek Cem: You mentioned yesterday in your speech that the discussions taking place now have to do with getting the natural gas and then connecting it  to the BTC pipeline route, is that the main discussion point?

 

Matt Bryza: What we're looking at is how we can help Europe develop alternative gas supplies through its primary suppliers right now. Europe gets a lot of gas from the north sea and north sea gas production is declining and will run out soon. Its other major supplier is Russia, and Turkey as we know is 65% dependent on Russia's supplies of gas. Some countries in the rest of Europe are 100% just one supplier, Russia, of natural gas. What we'd like to do is give countries and companies additional options to compliment the important deliveries of gas RFussia provides and to create more market diversity more competition.  Most of that gas or much of that new gas will come from Azerbaijan. But we'd also like to find ways to expand gas production from Iraq as well as in central Asia and to move that to Europe across Turkey through not exactly BTC pipeline because thats an oil pipeline but the gas pipeline Baku Tblisi Erzurum runs more or less along the same route as BTC and thats the main conduit of the gas to Europe.

 

Ipek Cem: The Caspian Sea is where so much natural gas reserves lie. There is now kind of a dispute, difference of opinion about how can we take this gas out Iran has a different opinion Azerbaijan has a different opinion and this is going to be an international legal problem is that so?

 

Matthew Bryza: Later perhaps, what we are trying to do immediately is work with companies and the government of Azerbaijan as well as the government of Turkey, and Georgia and Greece and Italy to help Azerbaijan to produce more gas more quickly for export to Greece and Italy via Turkey. There is no dispute about Azerbaijan gas fields so that first phase of the project is not a problem. Later though we'd like to work with countries like Turkmenistan definitely Kazakhstan so that they can export their gas across the Caspian so that's where it gets a little bit tricky. Yes Russia and Iran argued that the Caspian sea is actually a lake and if its a lake then all five countries would have to agree to any new developments on the Caspian Sea floor and without an international agreement dividing up the sea as we see it not a lake as these countries argue. there would have to be the resort to the 1921 treaty between Iran and the Soviet Union and that treaty would call for both of those countries to agree to any pipelines. We argue something differently. We argue that the Caspian Sea is a sea as the word implies its a sea and it is not necessary that all five countries agree to building a pipeline on its bottom. On the contrary as long as two countries through whose waters the pipeline would travel would agree, that's enough to build a pipeline. There are already many pipelines hundreds of miles thousands of miles on the Caspian sea floor and there are also the Blue-Stream Pipeline in the Black Sea nobody asked Romania, Bulgaria Georgia's permission to build that pipeline in the Black Sea. Similarly we consider there is no need to ask, say anyone’s permission other than Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan to build the pipeline.

 

Ipek Cem: As energy becomes more and more of a hot issue I think these disputes may take more center stage. I want to go back a little bit to Turkey. Before we dwell into Eurasia the energy equation and the Middle East.  Since Minister Gul's visit to Washington,  we see an increase in the number of visits between the two countries and the level of visits between the two countries. With our Chief of Staff General Buyukanit visiting Washington recently and then the other initiatives. There are two main topics that the Turkish public feel are very important to get US support on, for us to strengthen building our relationship as you put it and as you know one of them is the containment of PKK and the eradication of terrorism from northern Iraq into Turkey and the second one is the Armenian proposal in the US Congress. First I want to deal with the PKK issue. You mentioned yesterday something like ‘we owe Turkey to help them in this field’. What specific steps are you envisioning to help Turkey in this?

 

Matthew Bryza: You are right I did say that yesterday, we have made commitments to Turkey. Repeatedly to eliminate the terrorist threat of the PKK in Iraq and to work with Turkey to eliminate the same threat elsewhere. So what specific things can we do, or will we do. In Europe we have done a lot with Turkey and with our other European allies to weaken to undercut the support mechanisms and the operations of the PKK in Europe. Much of the PKK's financial support comes from Europe. We've made a lot of progress there. YOu've seen some press reports you may yourself reported on some of those developments. But that's not enough. We also are obligated, we promised to, eliminate the PKK terrorist threat or help to eliminate it in Iraq. That's a very complicated problem, a very difficult one to solve. The PKK operations are dispersed and hard to identify or based in camps in very remote areas, high in the mountains. That are hard for military forces to gain access to and require an enormous investment of military force or for someone to take sort of military operation. Turkey knows very well from its own experience with Europe's largest and most capable military and with a military that has had some presence in Iraq in Northern Iraq for quite some time. Turkey knows how difficult and maybe impossible it is to resolve the PKK problem simply through military force. The PKK is a very complicated issue it has social and political and economic elements as well as pure security problem. So we need to go after the PKK on all those fronts. Now we are consulting very closely with the Turkish government to develop a shared approach also with the government of Iraq. Perhaps most importantly with the government of Iraq. Baghdad is the sovereign government of Iraq, has ultimate responsibility for the countries security. But we also obviously carry a large degree of responsibility of Iraq security so we need to work together with Turkey and Iraq on these concrete steps.

 

Ipek Cem: Do you believe that the central government in Iraq has imminent control over what's happening in northern Iraq in terms of PKK activity?

 

Matthew Bryza: Well first of all nobody unfortunately has full control over PKK activities at this point. Northern Iraq is as you know the most stable portion of Iraq. It has a sovereign authority based in Baghdad over it. Absolutely the government of Iraq but as we all know there is the Kurdish regional government which carries authority on a day to day basis but as an element of the government of Iraq in Baghdad. So it is a complicated situation now whereby Baghdad and the regional authorities the Kurdish regional government work together. So legally of course government of Iraq in Baghdad  has authority in the north. Day to day however, of course the Kurdish regional authorities carry out their functions.

 

Ipek Cem: I wanted to ask you. When you make any kind of strategic vision you put the steps into it, I am sure and put some deadlines of working towards a solution in some issues and if the United States promised to us that it will help us in our fight against PKK is there a timeline to this?

 

Matthew Bryza: Well the timeline is just constant... always looking for ways to take care of this problem. A lot of that involves getting the right information at the right time to take the right sort of action. So in that sense there is no timeline. It is that we just have to be vigilant all the time and gather the information and take the steps. You talked about all the high level consultations a moment ago that are happening between our governments. Including Chief of Staff Buyukanit. That sort of interaction reflects, I think, an increased tempo of our coordination with the Turkish government. Just yesterday General Ralston was here for his consultations with (his Turkish counterpart) Baser. That's all reflective of the fact that our efforts are ongoing and we need soon to produce those concrete results. I cant give you a day and time when the next thing will happen. You see things kind of come out from time to time. There will be more.

 

Ipek Cem: Going back to the issue of Iraq now that we're talking about Iraq. Turkey and the United States to have the common vision of a united Iraq being more beneficial for the Iraqi people and for the stability of the region. But when we look at what has happened in Iraq whether it was intentional or not is besides the point. The outcome of US presence in Iraq has led to Sunni Shiite strife and is making the possibility of a divided Iraq more possible today. How to overcome this discrepancy? I know its a huge topic but it needs to be tackled because I think its giving more instability to the region day by day.

 

Matthew Bryza: That is one of the most important questions in all of U.S. and I would argue perhaps Turkish foreign policy. First thing I should say is that we are totally committed to maintaining a unified Iraq. President Bush made that clear in the last speech he gave about a month ago on Iraq and I can tell you from where I sit in Washington being responsible for relations with Turkey. We all spend a lot of time focused on how best to work with Turkey to ensure Iraq remains united. The strife between Sunni and Shiite is a fact of life. Your right and it is a problem that has no simple solution. Of course we believe now that the plan. The so called surge plan that president Bush has assembled and implementing now. It's going to have an impact in reducing the violence and well we are starting to see that already and as violence continues to decrease that opens up more options. Increasing options for Turkey and the United States to work together so that we in the United States can benefit from Turkey's extensive experience in dealing with Iraq. Turkey has done a lot with not only with the Sunni population but with others to encourage Sunni participation in Iraq's political life and that's the direction we need to move in. To make sure that all of the political and religious and ethnic groupings of Iraq are fully participating in Iraq's democracy.

 

Ipek Cem: When you talk about democracy, your job as a U.S. diplomat is difficult these days coming to this region and facing a lot of criticism. When you talk about democracy, the United States is a democracy and has been an aspiration for many democracies for many years. Many people wanting democracy and freedom. But recently we see that people are saying the United States there is a discrepancy what they are doing and what their saying. For example, the United States is aligning itself with Saudi Arabia which does not have democracy and other human rights issues and then looks upon Iran,  which is a democracy, as part of the Axis of Evil. So how do you make this differentiation? Are we for democracy? For responsible nations? How do you make this policy more cohesive?

 

Matthew Bryza: There is not always a need for 100% total cohesion for in terms of saying that we favor democracy so we will support every country that has a democratic political system in all countries. We have to balance a wide range of interests. In the Caucuses where I have focused much of my attention I would like to think that we have three sets of strategic interests. We have interests in security cooperation, in energy, and in democratic reform. So we have to maintain a balance and keep pursuing all sorts of interests simultaneously. Iran, maybe on paper it has a democratic political system but Iran doesn't really operate as a democracy like Turkey does. Turkey really matters because it is a secular democracy.

 

Ipek Cem: Going back to the second topic, that is taking a lot of media attention in Turkey which is the Armenian proposal in the Congress. Clearly the Congress makes its own decisions and the government can only have so much influence or audience with the Congress. But we see a heightened interest to help us on this matter. How do you see the possibility of this proposal passing and not passing.

 

Matthew Bryza:  Thank you for phrasing the question the way you did because you're exactly right. There is a limit to what any executive branch officials can do when it comes to the Congress. Just like here there is only so much the government can do visavis the Grand National Assembly. It is important to keep in mind the resolution that's being considered is non-binding.  Which means it doesn't require the US government to do anything. It's merely a statement of opinion. And thank you also for recognizing that we are being very active in trying to convince our colleagues in the US Congress that any such resolution is not helpful. Our goal is not to sweep under the carpet what happened. What happened in 1915 was a horrible tragedy. It was a tragedy for everyone in the Ottoman Empire at the time. For Turks, for Armenians for everybody. But we believe that what's important now is not to make a political statement that defines how we refer to those events. What matters now is that people here in Turkey and elsewhere have a heart felt, candid deep discussion, exploration, of the shared past of Turkey with Armenia.

 

Ipek Cem: We think that the resolution is highly exaggerated in Turkey but of course there are different opinions on it. The worse part is that it may worsen relations the US even regardless of how it comes to fruition. If it passes I think it will be a difficult time for U.S.- Turkish relationships. Are you prepared for that?

 

Matthew Bryza: Well, I'm doing everything I can with my colleagues both wherever they are in the government system above me or below me to try to make sure we don't come to that situation. Certainly we have to think about the fact that U.S.- Turkish relations could suffer but we've spent the last couple of years working very actively in a systematic way to strengthen and restore a sense of strategic partnership in U.S.- Turkish relations. Our relations are deep, and they are based not just on shared strategic interests. But they are really based on shared values as well. values as well. First and foremost being the value of secular democracy with a moderate Muslim population here and I would argue we share the value of a deep tradition of tolerance. Tolerance is where we sit here in istanbul that is what this city is all about. Such a rich history of so many groups living together and so many religious movement coming together that are here. That will always be here and and be a foundation of US Turkish relations. But I'm not so naive to believe that everything will continue just as it always has. This is a serious issue on our horizon.

 

Ipek Cem: In your responsibility in the State Department you are looking at Turkey and the Caucuses, Greece and several other countries and also you are very active on the energy agenda and I want to bring our discussion to that. Now we know that Turkey is gaining strategic importance as an energy route and even our energy minister  even mentioned we could an energy terminal going forward. BTC has been successfully completed and we're looking at the pipelines across, north south and connecting Eurasia with Europe and Middle East with Europe and we're seeing that Turkey will continue to play an important role in these developments. This is seen as a balance with Russia who is a major supplier of natural gas. I'm, seeing a sense of a rejuvenation of the Cold War in the energy arena. What do you say?

 

Matthew Bryza: I don't feel a rejuvenation of the Cold War whatsoever. We are so glad the Cold War is finished - forever. What we are trying to do is to look at European energy in a more market based way. We look today at the gas market for example. Gas is our most urgent focus because gas contracts are long term. They often last for a couple of decades because to get gas from point A to point B its necessary to build a pipeline usually that can't be diverted like an oil tanker can. So you have to look at very long term relationships. And the long term relationships in place now involve a predominant supplier. A single source supplier. One of them Gazprom which buys gas in Central Asia for lets say $100 per 1000 cubic metres and sells it in Europe for $285 or $300 per 1000 cubic metres. There's a disparity in price that generates enormous rents or flows of money that are distributed in ways that are not transparent. We would like to see the market enjoy more competition so that prices between the purchasing in central Asia and in Europe are more equal. Therefore the market will function more efficiently. So its an argument that has to do with efficiency of markets and with providing European consumers multiple choices for this most commodity which is natural gas.

 

Ipek Cem: You are focusing on the Caucuses and Eurasia and mentioned previously democratic reform and in this in these set of countries there are varying levels. We see the need for democratic reform. Have you seen some progress if you could mention by country?

 

Matthew Bryza: In the Caucuses you mean? (Yes) Yes, we have. We have seen some setbacks and some progress. the most dramatic progress has been in the country whose president you recently interviewed Mikhail Saakashvili. Georgian democracy has evolved dramatically since the Rose Revolution of November 2003. Georgia was not an authoritarian state under Edvard Shevardnadze was in many ways one of the great leaders in the 20th  century. But the Georgian state began to melt away. Largely due to corruption that was eating away at the authority structures. Now since the Rose Revolution, there has been a remarkable series of reforms put into place. There is a lot of work to go still on Georgian democracy, but its a thriving democratic system right now. Azerbaijan and Armenia have more to do but I sense from my own interactions, well with the other regional presidents you interviewed recently Ilham Aliyev. That the country is moving. We would like to see it move more quickly toward democracy but there is some movement and the same in Armenia. Armenia will have a parliamentary election on May the 12th. That's a very important test as to how quickly how profoundly Armenian democracy will evolve.

 

Ipek Cem: As the U.S. State Department I'm sure your looking at the election, the elections coming up in Turkey, the presidential elections and the general elections. Do you have some scenarios some points that you're considering very seriously looking at difficult or less difficult scenarios? What are your expectations?

 

Matthew Bryza: Our expectations are that Turkish democracy will continue to function as an inspiration for all of those in this region albeit, in Europe or the Middle East who thirst for the same democratic freedom people in Turkey enjoy. Turkey really matters to the United States in a strategic sense today, because of its secular democracy and its majority Muslim population. As well as its 160 years of modernizing reform. I look at Dolmabahce palace and am reminded what was happening in the late Ottoman Empire. Where groundbreaking reforms were taking place under Ottoman Turkish leadership in places like Cairo and Damascus. That reflects the strengths and traditions of modernization in Turkey and today since Ataturk, the foundation of the Turkish Republic in 1923 of democracy. So its the democratic mechanisms that matter and the outcome of the election really is its none of our business and its not really appropriate for our government to be planning any scenarios because we cant predict what will happen will have no impact on the election.

 

Ipek Cem: You have been an important actor in the realization of BTC and the time when the project was just in the dream state, were you envisioning it was actually going to happen? What were some of the major roadblocks along the way?

 

Matthew Bryza: We were confident it was going to happen. Always from the beginning. Because we knew it made commercial sense. There were a lot of roadblocks a lot of people saying this country or that country maybe Russia wouldn't allow it to happen. We always said we knew it would because the vision made sense and it wasn't really our vision it was your vision. It was your families vision to a certain degree. It was President Sulyeman Demirel's vision he articulated it along with President Shevardnadze and Haydar Aliev. And the success was largely to Ismail Cem, and his diplomacy. I remember many times when we would find ourselves facing a blockage. It was him personally or his foreign ministry working with us that eliminated those blockages and today we have a new dream that builds on everything we did BTC and on the accompanying South Caucuses Pipeline. We want now to move as much gas as possible from Azerbaijan across Georgia and Turkey and now into Greece and Italy and it was in fact your father's diplomacy with George Papandreou after the earthquake here created this new opportunity building on these other achievements and we will always be grateful to him and to Turkey for that.

 

Ipek Cem: On that note I want to thank you very much for your time.

 

Matthew Bryza: Thank you.

 

This transcript was typed from a transcription unit recording and not copied from an original script. Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, NTV networks and Ipek Cem cannot vouch for its accuracy.