Mullen: "The US has no plans to ask Turkey to change the Montreux convention"
In Ankara for an official visit at the invitation of his Turkish counterpart Gen. Ilker Basbug, US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Michael Mullen yesterday met with Gen. Basbug, and was also received by President Abdullah Gul. He also met with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul over the weekend. Afterwards, Mullen told reporters that the US ships which last month delivered humanitarian aid to Georgia after going through the Turkish Straits had fully abided by the Montreux Convention, adding that the US would continue to observe the pact. He also said that the US has no plans to ask Turkey to change the convention. Stressing the common interests and military cooperation between the two countries, Mullen said that the US would determinedly continue its cooperation and intelligence-sharing with Turkey against the terrorist PKK. He said that the US has no special requests from Turkey on withdrawing US troops from Iraq or on NATO operations in Afghanistan, adding that the decision on extending an official motion enabling cross-border operations into northern Iraq lies with the Turkish government. Mullen also stressed the importance of peace and stability in northern Iraq, saying that Kirkuk and other issues should be solved by peaceful means that preserve Iraq's stability and territorial integrity. Mullen expressed US gratitude for Turkey's support for Afghanistan, adding that the two countries should continue their cooperation there in the long term. On Georgia's possible NATO membership, Mullen said that Georgia progressing on the path towards the pact, but that this path might be a long one. Mullen also expressed concern over Russia's occupation of Georgian territories, saying he hopes Russia will never cross the border or occupy the territories of any other country. Mullen said that NATO should continue its presence in the Black Sea through holding joint military exercises with the countries around the sea, in line with the Montreux Convention and the Black Sea's international character. He also said that this was his first visit to Turkey as joint chiefs chairman, and added that he was very pleased to be the first foreign guest of recently promoted Chief of General Staff Gen. Başbug. In related news, Parliament is expected to extend the term of the motion enabling cross-border operations into northern Iraq after returning from its summer recess.