CNNTurk and NTV television interviewed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in advance of his visit to Turkey. The following is the transcript of the interview:
To view the clip of the interview, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKUuGNNanjY.
"The Two Countries [Turkey and Iran] are Culturally Close and the Two Peoples Share Many Similarities"
NTV: "You will be meeting with [Turkish] President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Erdogan tomorrow in Istanbul. What are your expectations, and with what files are you going to Turkey?"
Ahmadinejad: "Salutations to you and to the great, believing, and patriotic people of Turkey. There are historical and cultural ties between the great, faithful, and patriotic Turkish and Iranian people. You can find Turkish and Iranian relations in the depth of their history and in their sacred ties. The two countries are culturally close and the two peoples share many similarities. The two counties have good and friendly and further developing relations. We have trade relations, cultural relations and I am happy to say that we also have growing political relations.
"At the invitation of my dear friend and brother Abdullah Gul, I will be visiting Turkey – our sister – and we will have discussions on many issues, [such as] bilateral matters, the cooperation between our two countries, agreements – the old ones that we signed and new ones that we will sign – and on developing our relations. Also there are regional issues; we will exchange views on those.
"[We will discuss] terrorism and our joint effort to fight it. We will talk about cooperation between Iran and Turkey, as well as cooperation between us, Iraq and Syria. We are talking about global issues and we have dialogue, as two influential countries. We will have intense work to do with our brothers the [Turkish] president and prime minister."
"[Iran's] Nuclear Work is Legal and Legitimate; There Has Been No Deviation from Legitimacy"
CNNTurk: "Both Turkey and Iran have a problem with terrorist organizations such as PKK and PJAK, and there is cooperation against terrorism. Will this visit lead to a military cooperation and possibly to an agreement, between the two countries?"
Ahmadinejad: "Unfortunately, groups in all sorts of places in the world create security problems. In our region too there are groups that want to advance their own goals. We have for a long time successfully cooperated against those. And as Iran, Turkey and Iraq, we will have trilateral cooperation on these issues and we will make efforts to establish peace and stability in our region."
NTV: "There is a crisis on nuclear issues. You are saying that you are enriching uranium for peaceful purposes and the U.S. and others have concerns that this might turn into a program for nuclear weapons. In this crisis Turkey attempted to facilitate a dialogue between Iran and the U.S. and the West. How do you see Turkey's role in this matter? Turkey wants dialogue and peace [yet] does not want nuclear weapons. How do you see that?"
Ahmadinejad: "Our nuclear work is legal and legitimate and there has been no deviation from its legitimacy. This is our lawful right and our peoples are convinced of that. Iran maintains that her rights should be respected. In our talks this is clear. Those who oppose our program are the very ones that did horrible things in the recent past. It is they who should have limitations. Iran has never attacked anyone.
"I am pleased to say that the negotiations are going in a constructive manner. Therefore we don't have a nuclear problem right now. But naturally Turkey, the Turkish people and government, our brothers, are acting with sensitivity to Iran and they have rightfully emphasized Iran's legitimate right to nuclear technology, and this attitude stems from the friendship and brotherhood between our two peoples. It is not that Turkey is a mediator – this would be a legal process – but her efforts and recognition of Iranian people's rights, as well as other peoples' and Turkey's rights to nuclear energy are important. Turkey's efforts to reduce tensions, [and] for dialogue and for the dialogue to be constructive are something that we value, of course."
"The Best Way is For [The Israelis] to Free and Return All the Palestinian Lands – And Go Away"
CNNTurk: "Another field or area where Turkey is mediating, or rather facilitating, is between Israel and Syria. What are your thoughts about this? And if peace can be achieved between Israel and Syria, would Iran support such a peace?"
Ahmadinejad: "Now, look. We have to divide this subject into two. One arm becomes the issue of the existence of the Zionist regime. Of course this regime for us is an illegitimate regime. That is, it has no legitimacy. In essence it is illegitimate and its frame is occupation. They left a few million Palestinians homeless and brought people from all kinds of places, brought them with all sorts of slogans and lies and they created a fake country. Our stand against this regime is known and clear. There must be a referendum there and the Muslims, Christians and Jews should determine their political destiny.
"We are against all aggressors and occupiers. We are against what these occupiers do in these lands, in Gaza and against all their aims. But if they leave the lands that they occupy – and of course we want it to leave all the lands – but whatever parts they leave is a good step forward. Of course we do not think that this regime will free the Golan Heights. Because if it returns the Golan, then it must leave the region completely. If it decides to return the Golan, to return the Palestinian lands, if it stops occupation, we would have a more positive opinion. The best way is for them [the Israelis] to free and return all the Palestinian lands and go away.
"With Syria, we have good relations. Mr. Assad came to Tehran and provided clarifications and information to us. There are no conflict in the views between Iran, Turkey, and Syria."
Ahmadinejad Refuses to Visit Ataturk's Tomb
NTV: "It is tradition that heads of states who visit Turkey visit Ankara the capital and Anitkabir [Ataturk's mausoleum]. You will come to Istanbul and Anitkabir is not in your program. Is there any special reason why you would not visit Anitkabir? The Turkish public is waiting to hear your reply on this matter."
Ahmadinejad: "This visit is a working visit and Istanbul is designated for it. Turkish authorities at this time are in Istanbul and the timing was done with that in mind. We, the Iranian people, love the Turkish people, and I am certain that the Turkish people love the Iranian people very much."
CNNTurk: "I want to stay on this subject a little more. You are talking about the warmth and love between Iranian and Turkish peoples. Why is it that you would not make a short, a half-day visit [in Ankara] and become the first [Iranian] leader to visit Anitkabir, to show respect to Ataturk's resting place? Wouldn't this draw the two countries even closer? And also I am curious to learn. What does Mustafa Kemal Ataturk mean for you?"
Ahmadinejad: "We have programmed this earlier. Turkey is a big country and it has a great people. There are many places a president should go to and visit. But our visit is a working visit, we will have intense work to do, and Istanbul was offered. We are coming to you as guests."
CNNTurk: "So are you saying that had this been not a working visit and you had come to Ankara, you would visit Anitkabir?"
Ahmadinejad: "You keep insisting on this, but these are side issues and not important ones. Do not forget that the main purpose of this visit is talks, analyses, and the pursuit for the rights of our two peoples. We will spend all our time on this."
"Iranian Culture [and] Turkish Culture is the Culture of Friendship and Justice, Love of Allah, Peace, and Brotherhood"
NTV: "Mr. President, you said that Turkey is a facilitating country, even if not a true mediator. Both Iran and Turkey are important countries in the region. In such crisis situations, do you expect Turkey to play more of a role like this? And secondly, before tomorrow's visit, what message would you like to convey to Turkish people?"
Ahmadinejad: "I think I answered this question already. Whatever Turkey does to ease the tensions and to make the dialogues more constructive is regarded positively by us. And we are thinking that Turkish-Iranian friendship is the reason of these efforts. We are communicating and consulting each other on many issues; this is one of them.
"My trip to Turkey is a message of friendship to the Turkish people. I have great respect for the Turkish people. The Turkish people had an unequalled role in the creation of a world civilization. Turks are advancing today in many fields. You have great potential [to do good] for the region and for mankind. We must go hand in hand and demonstrate again our peoples' greatness and honor.
"The progress and the dignity of Turkish people, as well as the progress and dignity of the Iranian people is not a threat to anyone; it is in the interest of everyone. It means peace and security for the region. Iranian culture [and] Turkish culture is the culture of friendship and justice, love of Allah, peace and brotherhood and it is good of everyone."
"Our Attitude [Toward Israel] Is Not Only Ahmadinejad's Attitude... The Turkish People Will Say the Same... [As Will] the People of Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine – Because These Are the True Words [of Allah]"
CNNTurk: "[…] Again on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, we know your stand very well. Today I researched a little your statements related to Israel. Two things stand out: To wipe Israel out of the map, and your repeated mention of pushing the Jews into the sea. You have a very harsh attitude. I'm curious to know, how will the peace come to the region? With this harsh attitude, or through some other initiatives? What do you think? What is the solution for the region?"
Ahmadinejad: "Our attitude is not only Ahmadinejad's attitude. It is the region's attitude. It is the attitude of the peoples of the region. You can also ask the Turkish people. The Turkish people will say the same things that I say, the people of Iraq will say the same, the people of Syria will say the same. Also in Saudi Arabia, in Egypt, Jordan, in Lebanon and in Palestine. Because these are the true words [of Allah]. We are speaking words of truth.
"As I said earlier, the Zionist regime is based on lies. There was no regime like this in our region. The people of this regime are brought to this region. And the people of this region have been exported out of there. This is a great cruelty.
"If in Europe some wrong has been done against the Jews it does not mean that Muslim Palestinians or Christians should be made to pay. This was exploitation, a way of putting pressure on the people of this region."
"Our Solution is a Referendum [on Israel]... Let the Palestinian People Make Its Choices; Whoever Is Palestinian Should Have a Say" On Israel
"Since this [Israeli] regime came here, it is killing, murdering people. Look at it – there are daily bombings, arrests, massacres, or blockades. There are wars. This regime made three wars against its neighbors. It continuously attacks the Palestinian people with tanks, bombs and helicopters. These people [the Israelis] don't belong to this region. They must go!
"But what we offer is a humane solution. Our solution is a referendum. We say, let the Palestinian people make its choices. Whoever is Palestinian should have a say. What we say is in line with U.N. rules, in line with international laws. This is a humane offer. If there is such a referendum, this regime [Israel] will automatically be eliminated. And a regime based on its people will be erected. Then the meaning of what we are saying will become clear.
"As you know the Soviet regime was eliminated from the map. How was it eliminated? Because the people wanted this. With the vote of the people. And it must be accepted that the vote of the people votes should rule.
"I am really amazed that the big powers, that always talk about human rights, and democracy, when it comes to Palestine they side with dictatorship, they side with murder. Palestinians are a people, of course, and they have been under oppression for 60 years. Hold a free referendum, let Palestinians express their views. Whatever the results are, everyone respects. Let's allow the Palestinians to choose their way. This is in the interest of everyone. It is in the interest of the European countries, even the U.S.
"Because this regime is dishonorable. And every day that this regime lives it increases the weight of the files of the big powers. Naturally the murders of this regime are being added on the accounts of the [Western] nations."
"Therefore These [Western] Nations Must Separate... From This [Zionist] Regime; They Have Nothing to Gain, Nothing to Benefit... The Expense Is More Than It's Worth"
"Therefore these [Western] nations must separate their accounts from this [Zionist] regime. There is nothing they have to gain, nothing to benefit from this regime. It's all losses. As in the case of an old car, the expense is more than it's worth. Like an old car that has stopped running; all you spend on it is wasted. This is loss for everyone. For Palestine, for Middle East, for Europe and for America.
"They have to resolve this problem. And the way to do it to ask for the free opinion of the people. Let them prepare a referendum. This is not a difficult task. We can help the U.N. Let them prepare a referendum. Everybody will be happy. And this situation, wars and oppression will be eliminated. Our method for resolution is very clear."
"In Turkey People Love [Nasrallah]... Everybody Loves Him, People Who Love Freedom Love Him... He Destroyed the Myth of the Zionist Regime"
NTV: "There is talk recently about the rise of Iran in the Middle East, and some countries in the region are concerned about this rise, about this power. It is said that you have influence over Hizbullah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine. Some countries consider these terrorist organizations. Posters of Nasrallah posters are seen in the streets of Tehran. How do you view these two organizations, what do they mean to you, and are you really supporting them?"
Ahmadinejad: "[Hizbullah leader] Hassan Nasrallah is a well-liked figure. In Turkey people love him. You love him too. Everybody loves him. People who love freedom love him. Hassan Nasrallah stood against the Zionists' aggression and defended his land. He defended his people. This is the right of all the peoples. It is the right of every person. It is the duty of every person – just as every Turk would stand against those who would attack Turkey.
"Seyyid Hassan is a hero today, for he destroyed the myth of the Zionist regime. Of course we know that the Zionists don't like Hassan [Nasrallah], and those who support them do not like him. They are disturbed by him.
"But we, and all the countries in the region support the territorial integrity of Lebanon. We are in contact with all the Lebanese groups. We encourage them all to unity and to cooperation. Iran had an input in their reaching an agreement. Any fragmentation in the countries of the region benefits only the enemy. We are making every effort to maintain unity."
"Iran Is A Big Power, So Is Turkey – But Our Power Is For Peace And Friendship... We Never Want To Attack Others Or Occupy Lands Of Others... We Respect All Peoples"
"Of course Iran is a big country. Always has been. Turkey too is a big country. Iran is a big power. So is Turkey. But our power is for peace and friendship. We have cultural power. Not in order to attack others. Our strength is different than that of those super powers. We never want to attack others or occupy lands of others. We do not want to take away the rights of other peoples. We respect all peoples. […]
"Their security makes us happy. Our strength gives a message of peace and friendship and justice. Iran is historically a great country; so is Turkey. Iran's and Turkey's power is for the good of everyone. Of course, the Zionists do not want that. But this is not important."
"The Zionist Regime... Cannot Challenge Iran Even In Their Wildest Imagination... The Sooner They Leave [the Region], the Better It Is For Them – The Longer They Stay, The Worse It Is For Their Supporters"
CNNTurk: "I would like to expand to the global perspective. Iran's nuclear program created problems with the U.S. Things are tense and we saw that the Geneva talks did not bear fruit. At that time Israel conducted an exercise with 100 fighter planes. Following that you conducted an exercise in Iran with Shahab-3s. What does this mean? Are tensions rising? Is diplomacy failing, and you are showing each other your muscles? How should we read all this?"
Ahmadinejad: "Your question has several parts. One is the nuclear issue. We think that the nuclear issue is on the right path. The talks were good and they will continue. We think of them as a good beginning. And now it is being followed up. We are not thinking that it was a failure. Nobody thinks that.
"Naturally the negotiations were intense. They have been trying to solve this for the past 30 years. It can't be resolved in one session. Everybody knows that this nuclear issue is an excuse. The real issue is that these big powers do not want our people to advance. This is the real matter.
"But now negotiations have begun and it is good. We are not going towards a worse situation. This was one part of your question.
"As for the Zionists: If they have carried out exercises it is their business. It concerns them alone. But everyone knows that the Zionist regime cannot measure up to Iran. They cannot challenge Iran even in their wildest imagination. Everyone knows and they know. They don't even have it in their program. That is, they may have such thoughts in their makeup, in their wishes, but they will carry away these wishes [when they go]. They are tiny. They say it themselves.
"As you also know, the Zionist regime is breaking apart. They live only if they attack. Let me tell you about an interesting point. When they [Israelis] came into being, they had a slogan that said 'from the Nile to the Euphrates.' That is, all of Iran, Turkey, Egypt, the Gulf, Iraq and Sudan. All of the Islamic world.
"Had they realized their dream their existence could have been of value. Then, great powers would have supported them. But in what shape is this regime now? It is building a wall around itself in order to survive. This means their devastation, this means their annihilation.
"It [Israel] has no existence. Their existence is about frightening, attacking, occupation and exploitation. Now they cannot do this, they must examine themselves. They do not exist.
"The sooner they leave [the region], the better it is for them. The longer they stay, the worse it is for their supporters. The Western countries should not support them [Israel] that much.
"The life of this regime has come to an end. They brought some pitiful people, wanderers, to there and gave them the Palestinians' homes and these people are now hostages of that regime. Open the doors and they will all run away. They [the Zionists] shut the doors."
The U.S. "Should Not Damage the... Character of the Great American People [By Supporting] a Murderous Regime [Israel]; "I Wish They Had Free Elections In America";
"Whatever Government Comes, It Must Leave The Middle East"
CNNTurk: "What about American support? When it is about Israel, America gets involved. What do you think about that?"
Ahmadinejad: "America gives support and will continue to do so. America does all sorts of things that are not honest. Generally it does not get any results from what it does. We advise them not to do this. It is against the good of the American people. They should not damage the personality and character of the great American people for a murderous regime. Our advice to them is not to support them [Israel] for the good of everybody – America, Europe, and the Middle East of course. This way, friendships will be built."
NTV: "Elections in the U.S. are near. Do you think America's attitude will change with a new president? Do you prefer Obama or McCain?"
Ahmadinejad: "For me it doesn't matter. It is the Americans' right. It is their elections. I wish they had free elections in America. Then many different people would come forth and Americans would have choices other than the two parties.
"What is important is what kind of attitude the new administration will demonstrate. The policies are important. I think no matter what government comes to power, America must change its policies. It is very difficult for America to continue with the current situation. With its present methods America's economy will collapse for sure. American politics will be chaotic. This will definitely happen.
"I think that wise persons in America are well aware of this [need for change]. And American decision makers are making the right decisions. Instead of meddling with other countries' domestic matters, the American government must think about its own people. It must solve the problems of its own people. Tens of millions of Americans are facing economic problems. The American economy is about to collapse.
"Whatever government comes, it must leave the Middle East, China, Asia or Africa, and look to its own states, if it takes pity on the American people, if it really wants to work for the American people. Wise people in America have already come to this conclusion. It does not matter who will come but what he will do."
Following the interview, Yuksel Taskin of Marmara University, a guest on the NTV program, gave his evaluation and analysis of Ahmadinejad's statements following the live broadcast of the interview. He called Ahmadinejad "very diplomatic" and likened his language to that of "some neo-cons in the U.S." He added, "I once again realized that in essence there is not much difference between Ahmadinejad, [former Israeli prime minister Benjamin] Natanyahu, and [U.S. President George] Bush. It seems as if all the hawks in the world have united."
 CNNTurk, NTV (Turkey), August 13, 2008.