Excerpts from Congressman Johnson’s speech:
“Building on that tradition of diversity and freedom, Turkey is playing a unique role in today’s geopolitical order as a bridge between nations that sometimes have difficulty speaking directly to one another.
In this century, I believe that Turkey also has the potential to serve as the heart of the region – setting an example of pluralistic democracy in a majority-Muslim society.
The economic miracle that has taken place in Turkey over the past decade is well-known to all of us here. Turkey is the world’s 16th-largest economy and one of the fastest growing in the world. Some reports indicate that Turkey had the world’s fastest-growing economy during parts of 2011.
Turkey’s influence in regional and global affairs has been dramatically enhanced by its economic strength and the effective execution of a forward-thinking foreign policy.
Prime Minister Erdogan and Foreign Minister Davutoglu have proven themselves to be skilled statesmen.
Turkish participation in multilateral security missions (including NATO efforts in Afghanistan, anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia, and the Libya war) demonstrates a more assertive approach to international affairs. This development should be embraced and shaped by the United States — not rejected or contained.
Turkey demonstrated its capacity to bridge the gap between the North American-European bloc and the Muslim world in the tumultuous weeks before the NATO-led Libya campaign.
I think Turkey can and should continue to play this same role in two of the most difficult diplomatic challenges of our time: the crisis in Syria, and the looming crisis over Iran’s nuclear program.
Turkey’s “no-enemies” foreign policy serves as a constructive basis for Turkey to champion creative diplomatic initiatives. You can’t please everyone all the time. But Turkey’s efforts to play the role of the honest broker can help us achieve crucial diplomatic breakthroughs.
It is my hope that Turkey will continue to embrace its secular democratic heritage and embrace a role as the heart of the region by demonstrating that Islam and democracy can and should co-exist.
Although the “Arab Spring” represents hope and greater democratic consciousness in societies that have long been oppressed, some here in the United States fear that popular rule in the Muslim world will not serve American interests.
Turkey stands as evidence that Islam and democracy can be reconciled without undermining constructive relations with the United States and our allies.
For Turkey to realize its full potential as a moral authority and a political model for the region, Turkey must strengthen democratic institutions that are under threat.
An independent judiciary and a free press are essential to any democracy. And a free press means a press free not just from imprisonment and prosecution without due process, but also from indirect forms of coercion like intimidation, blackmail, and bribery.
I believe the transition from military to civilian supremacy in Turkey is a welcome development. But if Turkey is to serve as a credible regional and global leader, I think it is critical that the civilian leadership demonstrate that they embrace democratic principles, including the neutrality of the state with regard to matters of faith.
Finally, I’d like to touch upon the deep and historic alliance between Turkey and the United States – an alliance that must be strengthened and deepened.
On his first trip overseas as President of the United States, President Obama addressed the Turkish parliament and reaffirmed the historic bonds between our cultures and countries.
As fellow democracies, as longstanding NATO partners, as powerful economies with an interest in international stability and security, the United States and Turkey are natural friends.
The United States and Turkey may not agree on every issue, every time. But I am confident we will have the common ground and common interests, the history of friendship, and the open lines of communication that will support an enduring friendship.
In supporting and deepening ties with Turkey while restating our commitments to these principles, we not only advance our economic and political interests, we demonstrate important commitments to democracy, religious freedom and prosperity in the Middle East.”