SECRETARY BLINKEN: Good afternoon, everyone. It’s a pleasure, as always, to welcome my colleague and friend Mevlut Cavusoglu here to Washington, to the State Department.
Before I speak about our meeting, let me just start by expressing my own deep sorrow and condolences to our friends in Ukraine for the terrible helicopter crash that took the lives of senior officials in the Government of Ukraine, including the minister of interior, the deputy minister, colleagues with whom we’ve worked very, very closely. A couple of them left behind small children. They have been heroic in their efforts in defense of Ukraine against the Russian aggression, and we stand with our friends in Ukraine in mourning their loss, and recommitting to the efforts that we’re making to help Ukraine defend itself against this aggression.
Having said that, I very much appreciate my friend and colleague being here today, the entire team from Türkiye. And we have spent a lot of time together over the last couple of years around the world. I think it’s evidence of the fact that our two countries are engaged together in some of the most critical and challenging issues of our time as NATO Allies and as partners. I again want to commend the exceptional role and leadership that Türkiye showed in getting the so-called Black Sea grain corridor up and running to make sure that grain could get out of Ukraine and to people who desperately need it around the world.
We have lots of important things to discuss with regard to the situation in Ukraine, and we’re here also under something that we established called the U.S.- Türkiye Strategic Mechanism, which is an important vehicle for us to deepen cooperation as well as work through any challenges and problems. We are close allies and partners; that doesn’t mean we don’t have differences, but when we have differences, precisely because we are allies and partners, we work through them in that spirit.
But there’s a lot to be said about where we are in Ukraine as well as other regional challenges in which we’re engaged ourselves and, for that matter, global issues that we both have on our plates. So we’ll discuss all of these things today in what is an ongoing conversation that we’ve been having for the last two years.
Mevlut, welcome. It’s good to have you here.
FOREIGN MINISTER CAVUSOGLU: (Off-mike.)
SECRETARY BLINKEN: (Off-mike.)
FOREIGN MINISTER CAVUSOGLU: Yeah, yeah. Okay. Thank you very much, Tony. Ladies and gentlemen, very happy to be here, and I would like to thank Tony for the warm welcome and hospitality. We will be holding the second ministerial meeting of the strategic committee of Türkiye and U.S., but let me before we start our meeting also express our condolences and our sympathy to Ukrainian state and Ukrainian people. And the minister of interior of Ukraine was a good friend of ours and a good friend of our countries.
And yesterday – let me thank my colleagues, our colleagues, for the interagency meeting they had to prepare this meeting. And today we will focus on areas of partnership in bilateral and regional issues. And economic cooperation is priority for us. Last year we exceeded – our trade exceeded $30 billion. You know our target is $10 – 100 billion. And there are also opportunities, as our colleagues discussed, in energy and investment.
Of course, we will also address significant topics about bilateral defense cooperation, particularly our F-16 request. And as I – as we said together before, this is not only for Türkiye but also important for NATO and for United States as well, so we expect the approval in the line with our joint strategic interest.
And cooperation in our fight against terrorism is also important, and we will reiterate our expectation and we will discuss how we can strengthen our fight against – cooperation in our fight against terrorism, including Daesh, PKK, and the developments in Ukraine; obviously Syria, Eastern Mediterranean, Middle East, and Caucasus will be also on our agenda today.
And as allies, we will continue this dialogue and we will continue institutionalizing this Strategic Mechanism between us, and so far it has been very useful, and I look forward to our fruitful discussions today.
Once again, thank you very much, Tony.