The Turkish ambassador to the United States supported his government's administration and defended his nation's position as a rising world leader during a talk with the Denver World Affairs Council on Wednesday.
As Ambassador Namik Tan spoke to 136 members of WorldDenver — a nonprofit group advancing understanding of global affairs — his country was cracking down on anti-government protests.
"What happened in Turkey recently is simply democracy in action," Tan said during the luncheon at the Brown Palace Hotel.
The protests began May 28 in Istanbul after an announcement that a shopping mall would replace Taksim Gezi Park. The demonstrations then spread nationwide and shifted to larger problems with the government.
Tan declined to comment on Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's recent suppression of the protests. "He's a great politician," Tan said, "so he knows what to do and what not to do."
The protests hurt Turkey's image globally and undercut its stance on other issues Tan addressed, including supporting opposition in Syria, concerns of Iran developing nuclear weapons and joining the European Union.
"I see little sign of big thinking in Europe," Tan said, before praising the U.S. "If they had, they would have done the same thing that this great nation has done, from Day One until now, and solidly supported Turkey's membership to the EU."
The strong bond between the U.S. and Turkey is one of the points Tan emphasized.
"Over the years, we've had ups and downs, but we've learned to overcome our differences and have accumulated good memories and experiences about each other," Tan said.
Overall, he said, Turkey is moving in the right direction and sets an example for other Muslim countries.
"We know what we're doing," Tan said."Perhaps we are making mistakes, but we are getting our lessons from those mistakes."
Former U.S. Sen. Gary Hart was in attendance.
Adrian D. Garcia: 303-954-1729, firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter/ adriandgarcia