This post was written by Hatchet reporter Cecile Schillis-Gallego.
The Turkish ambassador to the U.S. urged both countries Thursday to step up their joint efforts to spread democratic values internationally.
Namik Tan pointed the Middle East as a priority zone of action for the U.S.-Turkey partnership, citing the Arab Spring and the democratic transitions taking place in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.
“Authoritarian regimes can be toppled in one night,” Tan said. “But it takes more time to build strong government institutions and culture of democracy.”
Tan described Turkey as a possible role model for those countries. Recalling the speech Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan delivered at Tahrir Square in September, Tan lauded his courage and vision.
“Our prime minister is popular all around the world,” Tan said. “That is why President [Barack] Obama is calling him.”
Tan condemned the use of force by the government authorities in Syria against their own citizens, calling for more international pressure on the Syrian regime.
On Israel, he acknowledged the existence of tensions. Yet, he asserted Turkey was not the party responsible for it.
“We have always embraced the Jews,” Tan said. “We were second to recognized Israel after the US.
Tan said Turkey could not forgive Israel’s denial to apologize for the killings of nine Turkish citizens in the Mediterranean Sea last year.
When asked Iran’s nuclear capability by a student in the audience, Tan highlighted Turkey’s role as a mediator.
“We are not siding with Iran,” Tan said. “We are side-by-side with Iran.”
Tan explained that Iran’s potential nuclear capability is a greater threat for Turkey than for the U.S.
“We were criticized last year when we opposed the [UN] resolution [against Iran]”, Tan said. “But it paved the way for all of us to convince Iran for the first time in the history of Islamic Republic of Iran to sign a paper of commitment.”