Obama reaches out to Muslim world 
During his first visit to a mainly Muslim state, President Barack Obama
has declared that the US "is not and will never be at war with Islam".  
Addressing the Turkish
parliament, Mr Obama called for a greater partnership with the Muslim
world and said the US would soon launch outreach programmes. 
"America's relationship with the Muslim world cannot and will not be based on 
opposition to al-Qaeda," he said. 
Mr Obama also said Washington supported Turkey's efforts to join the EU. 
Earlier, at a news conference with his Turkish counterpart, Abdullah
Gul, he urged Turkey to help bridge the gap between the Muslim and
Western worlds. 
He said his visit was a "statement about the importance of Turkey, not just to 
the United States, but to the world". 
“ Obama is a seducer, in the nicest possible way of course. He smiles and
refers to himself as Hussein and does all the other things that make
Europeans swoon. Then he has his way. Or does he...?  ” 
Justin Webb BBC North America editor 

The US president began his visit to Turkey on Monday morning by laying
a wreath at the tomb of the founder of modern Turkish state, Mustafa
Kemal Ataturk, whose "vision and courage" he praised. 
He then travelled to the presidential palace in Ankara
for talks with President Abdullah Gul, before giving an address to the
Turkish Grand National Assembly. 
Mr Obama devoted much of his speech to urging a greater
bond between Americans and Muslims, admitting that "the trust that
binds us has been strained". 
"Let me say this as clearly as I can: the United States is not and will never 
be at war with Islam," he stated. 
"In fact, our partnership with the Muslim world is critical in rolling
back a fringe ideology that people of all faiths reject." 
He said; "The United States has been enriched by Muslim Americans. Many
other Americans have Muslims in their family, or have lived in a
Muslim-majority country - I know, because I am one of them." 
"And when people look back on this time, let it be said of America that we 
extended the hand of friendship," he said. 
"There is an old Turkish proverb: 'You cannot put out fire with flames.'" 
'Crucial ally'  
In his speech, Mr Obama said the US considered Turkey a "critical
ally", despite the deterioration of their relations over the war in
He said that while they had not always agreed on everything, the two states 
were stronger when they worked together. 

        * 2 April: G20 summit in London 
        * 3 April: Obama meets Sarkozy in France and Merkel in Germany 
        * 4 April: Leaders hold Nato summit in Strasbourg 
        * 5 April: Obama in Prague for US-EU summit 
        * 6-7 April: Obama visits Turkey 

"That is why we must listen to one another, and seek common ground," he said. 
The president also reiterated that the US government strongly supported
Turkey's bid to become a member of the European Union. 
"Europe gains by diversity of ethnicity, tradition and
faith - it is not diminished by it," he said to a round of applause
from the audience. "And Turkish membership would broaden and strengthen
Europe's foundation once more." 
The EU agreed to open accession talks with Ankara in
2004, but in recent years Turkey has made little progress with
democratic reforms which would improve its chances of membership,
correspondents say. 
Later in his address, Mr Obama said the US strongly
supported the full normalisation of relations between Turkey and
At his earlier news conference with President Gul, he
had stood by his 2008 assertion that the killing of Armenians by
Ottoman Turks in 1915 constituted "genocide" - without repeating the
The issue remains highly sensitive between the governments of Armenia
and Turkey, which denies those killed were victims of systematic
genocide, and has prevented normal relations between them for many
During his election campaign, Mr Obama said the
"Armenian genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point
of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an
overwhelming body of historical evidence". 
The BBC's Sarah Rainsford in Ankara says the fact that
Mr Obama chose to come to Turkey on only his second purely bilateral
visit has been welcomed as a sign that he wants to re-engage with it. 
Public support for the US dropped to a record low
during the Bush administration, fuelled mostly by fierce opposition to
the invasion of Iraq, our correspondent says.  
Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2009/04/06 14:17:30 GMT


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