US president visits Ankara, backs Turkey’s EU bid

ANKARA, Turkey – US President Barack Obama arrived in Ankara late on Sunday (April 5th) on his first official visit to Turkey since taking office in January. During his two-day stay, Obama is meeting with counterpart Abdullah Gul, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other government officials.

They will focus on boosting their strategic partnership, US troop withdrawals from neighbouring Iraq, the situation in Afghanistan and the latest developments in the Middle East, as well as Turkey’s relations with Armenia.

Earlier Sunday, Obama backed Turkey’s bid to join the EU, urging Brussels to accept Turkey as a full member. Ankara’s accession would be “an important signal” that would “firmly anchor” Turkey in Europe, Obama said in an address to an EU-US summit in Prague. He added Turkey’s membership would be a positive sign to the Muslim world.

While European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso welcomed Obama’s “clear statements”, France reiterated its opposition to Turkey’s EU accession. “When it comes to EU membership, it’s up to the member states to decide,” said President Nicolas Sarkozy. He said he and the “immense majority” of European countries oppose membership for Turkey.

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