Turkey Demands Iraq Opens Its Gates to U.N. Inspectors

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, Sept. 12, 2002, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

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JOHN GIBSON, HOST:  The countries in or near the Middle East have the most to win or lose with an invasion of Iraq.  Iraq's neighbor, Turkey, is opposing any U.S. strike on Iraq, saying it would destabilize the region.  Instead, Turkey wants Iraq to open its borders to the U.N. inspectors.

Joining me now is the Turkey's deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs Sukru Sina Gurel.

Mr. Minister, welcome.


GIBSON: Why is it that Turkey feels that an inspection regime, which failed in the past, would work now?

GUREL: Well, the conditions, when you compare them with 10 years, 12 years ago, are quite different now, and I believe that the Iraqis have shown the serious consequences of not obeying or complying with the Security Council decisions in the past.

And, therefore, I believe that some sense in them they can be found that they should be able to comply with those decisions.

GIBSON: You listened to the president today.  You were in the General Assembly.


GIBSON: Did you find his presentation convincing?

GUREL: Yes, it was a very strong speech, and he was convincing, and I believe that his speech was positive, very positive in the sense that he emphasized the principles — basic principles of the United Nations, and he cited the resolutions of the Security Council, starting from 1991.

And, therefore, he emphasized and clearly put forward the legal framework for what he meant to say about Iraq, and I believe the international community should dually assess the actual determination of the United States in that matter.

GIBSON: Turkey is a neighbor of Iraq.  Turkey is the country that hosts the flights that enforce the no-fly zone from the American and British planes.  Turkey might be one of those countries that had the most to fear of Saddam Hussein if he had a nuclear weapon.

Why then would Turkey oppose military action to make his use of a nuclear weapon impossible?

GUREL: Well, first of all, Turkey has always been for international cooperation and resolution of international conflicts in peaceful — through peaceful ways, and we believe that still.

Since the president also made some room for international cooperation towards peace finding, solution finding in the region, there's still real room to try those solutions.

GIBSON: If — if it comes — if the U.N. sends in weapons inspectors and the weapons inspectors' regimes do not work and military action is required and Saddam Hussein is removed, what happens then?  What about the day after in Iraq?

GUREL: Well, you say it so smoothly that one can expect smooth developments the day after as well, but things do not happen that way all the time.  And we are afraid that drastic action can result in very negative consequences, not only for the region, but for the globe as well.

GIBSON: The — it is — my understanding is Turkey is very concerned about a Kurdish state on Turkey's borders.  Is that your fear about military action, that the result would be a Kurdish Iraq?

GUREL: Well, maybe we should more emphasize concerns than fears.  Our concern is to have a divided Iraq because we feel that the territorial integrity of every state in the region is an essential for preserving peace and stability in the region, and, otherwise, we would tilt the balance in a way that we would not know the consequences.

GIBSON: If the weapons inspectors' regime does not work, would Turkey support military action?

GUREL: Actually, we have been actively supporting not only the United States government's, the administration's efforts to combat terrorism worldwide, but we have been on the forefront to advocate international cooperation against international terrorism, and we have always been for using peaceful means to resolve international conflict.

And, therefore, we will be supporting the United States in their efforts to stabilize the region, to normalize the situation in any region in the world, but especially in the Middle East.  So we will be side by side with our allies.

GIBSON: The Turkish minister of foreign affairs, Sukru Sina Gurel.

Mr. Minister, thanks very much.

GUREL: Thank you very much.

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