Rex W. Tillerson
Secretary of State
U.S. Consulate General Istanbul
July 10, 2017
AMBASSADOR BASS: It’s great to see so many representatives of Consulate General Istanbul here with us this morning. It is my honor and privilege to introduce to all of you our Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson.
Mr. Secretary? (Applause.)
SECRETARY TILLERSON: Thank you very much, Ambassador Bass and Consul General Davis, and it’s a real pleasure to be with you in Istanbul. And I want to welcome you back, as well. I know some of you have only returned here in the past couple of months, and I know that was a very trying period of separation.
Any time we are in a position where we have to disrupt our presence on the ground, I know it creates set-backs for everything each of you are trying to do individually with your responsibilities here. And I know it puts a lot of stress on the family that’s with you, but also the family that’s back home that worries about you, as well. So I appreciate the way all of you have handled that. I know we’re not back to full normalization yet, but we’re working on it. We’re working on it. Let me again thank you for what you do for us here.
I had the opportunity to also greet and meet with your colleagues down in Ankara when I was in Ankara a couple of months ago, I guess, and it was really a great pleasure to talk with them and meet them, as well.
I think our relationship here in Turkey, which has been under some stress for some time, I hope we are beginning to put it on the mend. I’ve had now about six hours of meetings over three different occasions with President Erdogan, and I think each meeting things are getting a little better, in terms of the tone between us. I think we are beginning to rebuild some of that trust that we lost in one another. They lost our trust, to a certain extent; we lost theirs.
And so, I think we are working very hard to rebuild that level of trust that is the basis for any relationship. And you know that as well or better than anyone. So I think, while we still have a lot of challenges ahead of us, this is an extraordinarily important relationship to the United States for many, many reasons that you would well understand, from a security standpoint to future economic opportunities, as well. And important geography, just by luck of Mother Nature, that the citizens of Turkey occupy at this crossroads of the world.
So it’s important for so many reasons, which is why we must put the relationship on the mend, re-establish it on a proper basis, and then strengthen it, going forward. And I think we are taking the first steps in that regard. You have been reading some of the headlines. We’re making some progress down in Syria. We are hopeful that we can replicate that with Turkey on some areas in the northern part of Syria. So we’re going to be working hard on those issues. And I think and hope that that will also form a basis for improving the trust, as well.
So I appreciate what you’re doing for us here. I know it can be, from time to time, a challenging post. Many of your colleagues around the world serve in challenging posts, as well. And just as you do it with a great deal of commitment and a great deal of patriotism, which is evident, and you represent the American people, you are the face of the American people in what you are doing here on our behalf.
Similarly, I want to thank our Turkish nationals, who I know in particular are operating under some very difficult conditions, as this relationship has been strained. And I admire your commitment to us and to our mission, as well. And it is appreciated. Please know that it is appreciated by me and by all Americans back home.
So again, it’s a pleasure to be with you. I’m going to — I’ve got to work my way through this crowd. I told someone I have a mission to — as you heard on my first day at the State Department, I want to shake the hand of every State Department employee at some point during this tenure of mine, anyway. You’re all extremely important to us — individual, but you’re extremely important to us, collectively, in what you do. So again, thank you very much. (Applause.)