Ties Between U.S., Muslim World Important for All, Obama Says
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 6, 2009 President Barack Obama addressed Turkey’s Parliament today in Ankara, calling America’s partnership with Turkey and the Muslim world critical in “rolling back the violent ideologies” and strengthening “opportunities for all its people.”
In his first visit to a predominantly Muslim nation as president, Obama said, “The United States is not, and will never be, at war with Islam.”
He called Turkey a “critical” ally and an important part of Europe that must stand together with the United States to overcome “the challenges of our time.”
Obama said the economic crisis, terrorist extremism and persistent conflicts, global energy constraints and nuclear weapon proliferation “are the greatest tests of our young century.”
“No one nation can confront these challenges alone, and all nations have a stake in overcoming them,” he said. “That is why we must listen to one another, and seek common ground ... build mutual interests and rise above our differences. We are stronger when we act together.”
Americans and Turks can prosper from partnerships in expanded energy markets, which will create job, trade and investment opportunities for both countries, he said. Building on the U.S. clean technology fund will leverage efficiency and renewable energy investments, he added.
“This economic cooperation only reinforces the common security that Europe and the United States share with Turkey as a NATO ally and the common values we share as democracies,” the president said. “In meeting the challenges of the 21st century, we must seek the strength of a Europe that is truly united, peaceful and free.”
Obama emphasized the United States’ strong support for Turkey’s European Union membership bid. He called Turkey a “resolute ally” and responsible partner in transatlantic and European institutions, citing the democratic progress in political reform the country has made to strengthen freedom of the press and reform its penal code. In the past several years, Turkey also lifted bans on Kurdish teachings and broadcasts, he said.
“Turkish membership would broaden and strengthen Europe’s foundation once more,” he said. “Turkey has pursued difficult political reforms not simply because it’s good for Europe, but because it is right for Turkey.”
Obama said that peace in the Middle East is another common goal shared by the United States, Turkey and Europe. Israelis and Palestinians must live up to commitments they’ve made for peace, while Iran must forgo ambitions for nuclear weapons to improve relations in the region. Also, new dialogue must be forged between Iraq and its neighbors to reconcile disputes among Turkey, Kurdish people in Iraq and Iraq’s government, he added.
He also addressed the common goal of denying safe havens to al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan and praised Turkish troops for their efforts as part of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force.
“The world has come too far to let this region backslide, and to let al-Qaida terrorists plot further attacks,” he said. “Turkey has been a true partner. Together we can rise to meet this challenge, like we have so many before.”
The U.S. relationship with the Muslim world can’t be shaped by its opposition to al-Qaida, Obama said. The U.S. commitment to improve partnerships with Islamic nations as well as to fight terrorism is demonstrated through their actions towards a better future, he said.
In the coming months, Obama said he will present specific programs to advance the two countries’ mutual goals for expanded trade and investments. The programs also will address education and health care in Turkey and throughout the Middle East, he said.
“Our focus will be on what we can do, in partnership with people across the Muslim world, to advance our common hopes and our common dreams,” he said. “And when people look back on this time, let it be said of America that we extended the hand of friendship to all people.”