Having paved the way with a speech of support for Turkey’s bid to join the EU, President Barack Obama has touched down in Ankara.
This is the last leg of his eight-day trip which has marked his debut on the world’s international stage.
While contentious issues exist between Washington and Ankara, Obama made a prior address in Prague to EU leaders urging them to accept Turkey into the EU bloc.
“Moving forward towards Turkish membership in the EU would be an important signal of your commitment to this agenda and ensure that we continue to anchor Turkey firmly in Europe,” Obama said.
But in a rare outward sign of disagreement at the EU-US summit, where the aim was to stress transatlantic ties, Obama’s remarks were immediately rejected by France.
“As far as the European Union is concerned, it is for its members to decide,” said President Sarkozy. “I have always been opposed to this membership and I remain so. I believe I can say that the majority of the other member states in the Union hold the same position as France. Turkey is a big country, an ally of Europe and of the United States, but must stay as a privileged partner.”
But having declared himself on Turkey’s side in the matter, the rest of Obama’s two-day stay is set to re-establish cordial relations after the fallout over the US invasion of Iraq. Meetings with both Turkey’s prime minister and president are on the agenda.