US Ambassador Emphasizes Friendship During Bilkent Visit


United States Ambassador to Turkey Francis J. Ricciardone visited Bilkent University on December 13 to meet with International Relations students. Invited by Associate Professor Ersel Aydınlı, also serving as executive director of the Turkish Fulbright Commission, to address his class IR 351 "Globalization,"  Ricciardone was greeted by over 70 IR students, faculty members and Chairman of the Board of Trustees and President of Bilkent University Ali Doğramacı. "We need more people like you," Ricciardone told Bilkent students, adding that the ideas, skills and imagination of young people were indispensable for future cooperation.

Ambassador Ricciardone emphasized the fact that "people to people contact" and "talking to each other" were a vital part of US President Barack Obama's general policy of renewing friendship between Turkey and the US. Staying true to this principle, the ambassador reserved the bulk of his time for questions from the audience.

Asked about US policy toward Syria and Turkey's increasing pressure on Damascus, Ricciardone said that as long as the Syrian opposition remained "fragmented, weak and lacking in authority and resources," the international community would have to apply diplomatic instruments such as sanctions. For now, a military intervention would be "neither legally nor morally acceptable," nor would it be effective. 

On the issue of a possible US-Iran showdown, Ricciardone said that there would be no strike on Iran. Instead, the US would continue using "carrots and sticks," applying pressure through sanctions and international isolation while allowing some economic activities for humanitarian reasons.

The ambassador also commented on China's rise as an economic and military power. While the US has a variety of possible strategies toward China ranging from appeasement to preventive war, Ricciardone said that the US policy toward China was engagement. He added that the two countries' relationship was a complicated symbiosis, partly because "they hold our dollars."

Asked about the PKK and terrorism, Ricciardone explained that Turkey faced a problem of coordination, similar to the situation of the US prior to 9/11. Hence, he said, US efforts were not only about supplying Turkey with combat helicopters and real-time intelligence, but also involved helping Ankara create a system of cross-institutional information-sharing and coordination.  

Francis J. Ricciardone has been US ambassador to Turkey since 2010. Previously, he served as deputy ambassador to Afghanistan and ambassador to Egypt.