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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Senator Susan Collins takes a trip on the wild side to Turkey

By Jamie Webben
November 01, 2011 10:04 AM
WASHINGTON — Sen. Susan Collins R-Maine, who returned from Istanbul, Turkey, last week, spoke on Monday at a conference about the state of America’s relationship with Turkey and how it can be improved.
The event, the American-Turkish Council’s 30th Annual Conference, was held to facilitate growing ties between the two countries. The conference’s theme was more pertinent after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake hit Turkey last week, killing more than 600 people.
Collins happened to be in Turkey when earthquake hit and said she was struck by the amount of the damage and felt for the victims.
She also focused on foreign relations, and said the relationship between the United States and Turkey has benefitted and can continue to so by increasing trade relationships and counter-terrorism efforts with one another.
Collins, ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee suggested more be done to increase bilateral trade with Turkey, which has the 16th largest economy in the world.
Collins said her home state has been particularly helpful with facilitating trade by shipping thousands of cattle for dairy farming to Turkey. “With a little ingenuity, there are a lot of trade opportunities,” she said.
Collins also said there are many opportunities for America to help Turkey continue to fight terrorism.
According to Collins, the United States spends an average of $1 million a day to help Turkey fight terrorism. She said, aside from spending money, the United States should also encourage democratic freedom in the region.
Panelists who appeared with her — Ambassador Selim Yenel, deputy undersecretary at the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Nuri Colakoglu, president of Dogan Media International; and Philip Gordon, Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs — discussed efforts such as those outlined by
Collins as possible reasons for improved favorability of the United States abroad.
According to Pew Research Center Poll from 2010, 17 percent in Turkey say they approve of the United States, up from a decade low of 9 percent in 2007.
While Collins said Turkey-U.S. relations have improved in recent years, she said she still has “concerns” with the deterioration of the relationship between Israel and Turkey and the how journalists are treated in Turkey.
“Addressing these issues would further enhance Turkey’s chances of being an exemplar of democracy in the Middle East,” she said.
Despite her reservations, Collins said Turkey has “more influence than ever before in our modern era to be a good role model. This is Turkey’s time,” she said.

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