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Corker Opening Statement at Hearing on US-Turkey Relationship

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today delivered the following remarks at a hearing to assess priorities and challenges in the United States’ relationship with Turkey.

“Since serving beside the United States in the Korean War and then joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1952, Turkey has proven itself to be a strong ally and important partner to the United States.

“We continue to see positive day-to-day cooperation on security issues in and around the Republic of Turkey.

“Yet our relationship has not always been as productive as we in the United States might like.

“For example, in 2003, the Turkish government refused to allow the United States military to operate from a NATO base in Incirlik, Turkey.

“In the last year, many of us in America have grown increasingly concerned about our partnership with Turkey.

“After the failed coup, the Turkish government arrested tens of thousands of people, instituted a ‘state of emergency’ that keeps dissidents in legal limbo, and otherwise cracked down on the free press.

“Innocent Americans also have been caught up in these repressive acts, including Andrew Brunson, a well-regarded American pastor who has been imprisoned in Turkey for 334 days.

“His continued mistreatment speaks volumes and raises serious questions about whether or not it is safe to live in – or even visit – Turkey. 

“I have repeatedly raised Mr. Brunson’s case with top officials in both the Obama and Trump administrations and joined Ranking Member Cardin on February 15 in making a direct request to President Erdo?an that Mr. Brunson be released and allowed to return to the United States.

“Erdo?an has not only domestically acted against journalists, opposition leaders and innocent Americans, he has rebuffed his allies internationally.

“Last month, Turkey agreed to give Russia $2.5 billion in return for surface-to-air missiles that are incompatible with NATO systems.

“These developments require that the United States work to preserve our important relationship with Turkey while reassessing ways to address differences that threaten close ties between our countries.

“In that spirit, I look forward to hearing from our witnesses about the challenges we face with Turkey and how we can improve this important relationship.”

Click here for complete testimony and video footage of the hearing.