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In Memoriam: Suleyman Demirel

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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Washington Institute for Near East Policy marks the passing of the visionary Turkish statesman Suleyman Demirel on June 17, and shares on behalf of its entire staff condolences for President Demirel's family and the Turkish nation.

Demirel, who spoke twice to The Washington Institute while president, first in 1996 and again in 1999, was a firm supporter of close relations with the United States and other NATO allies and an advocate of cooperation and friendship between Turkey and Israel.

Former Ambassador to Turkey James Jeffrey, the Philip Solondz Distinguished Fellow at the Institute, noted that President Demirel made his appreciation for the United States known in many ways, from regularly attending Independence Day ceremonies at the U.S. Embassy to collaborating closely with American officials on his visionary energy hub initiative. 

"Suleyman Demirel was part of a great line of Turkish politicians of the center-right," said Soner Cagaptay, Beyer Family Fellow and director of the Institute's Turkish Research Program. "Adnan Menderes, Turgut Ozal, and Demirel were devout Muslims who did not wear religion on their sleeve, and instead promoted Turkey's bonds with the West. Menderes took Turkey into NATO in 1952; Ozal applied to join the European Union in 1987; and in the 1990s, Demirel built the foundation of Turkish-Israeli ties, including the Turkey-Israel Free Trade Agreement, which continues as the backbone of Turkey-Israel relations."

In his addresses to the Institute, Demirel insisted on the importance of Turkey's democracy and its partnerships with the West even as it offered leadership by example to the Middle East. "Our democracy is our greatest asset, our most important guide towards reaching all our ideals and achieving our mission," Demirel said in his 1999 address. In that speech, President Demirel also spoke of the importance of Turkish-Israeli cooperation as a model for regional cooperation and dialogue, and expressed his vision for Turkey as a regional leader in moderation and prosperity.

"President Demirel was a great Turkish patriot. He clearly articulated the importance of Turkey's democratic values and lasting strategic relationship with the West," said  Robert Satloff, Institute executive director and Howard P. Berkowitz Chair in U.S. Middle East Policy "He generously shared his time and wisdom with the Institute, and he welcomed the chance to meet with Americans seeking to understand Turkey and its strategic relationships with the United States and our mutual partners."

About the Institute: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy is an independent, nonpartisan research institution that advances a balanced and realistic understanding of U.S. interests in the broader Middle East. Drawing on the expertise of its fellows, the Institute promotes informed debate and scholarly research on U.S. policy in the region.