Security has been stepped up in Ankara and Istanbul for US President Barack Obama’s visit to Turkey today.
Protests were held in both cities yesterday, with demonstrators objecting to US foreign policy over Iraq and Gaza. EU relations experts like Cengiz Akatar of Bahcesehir University hope Obama’s visit will mend the image of the US, which was tarnished for Turkey by the Bush administration. “The Turkish public has a very negative view of the American administration, of the past American administration, so I think President Obama will soothe this bad image, I think, and I am sure he will succeed,” Akatar said. But Obama’s first visit to a predominantly Muslim country has not been welcomed by everyone. “Obama’s visit is linked to Turkey’s role in the Middle East. In accordance with NATO’s new concept, they would like to draw Turkey into international war zones. That is why this is a very dangerous trip for Turkey.” said one man. Turkey is one of America’s most important allies in the region and the stated aim of the trip is to boost bilateral ties. Relations with Washington suffered in 2003 when Turkey opposed the invasion of Iraq. But Obama is seeking help for his new strategy in Afghanistan and as he prepares to reduce the number of troops in Iraq.