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Obama, Erdogan Discuss Afghanistan, Iran

U.S. President Barack Obama is seeking greater support from Turkey for his policies on Afghanistan and Iran. President discussed both issues on Monday at the White House with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

U.S. President Barack Obama is seeking greater support from Turkey for his policies on Afghanistan and Iran. President discussed both issues on Monday at the White House with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

As the talks came to a close, the two men put the focus on the positive.

President Obama thanked Turkey for its efforts in Afghanistan, where it commands the NATO peacekeeping force in Kabul.

"I thanked Prime Minister Erdogan and the Turkish people for their outstanding contributions to stabilizing Afghanistan," said President Obama.

Turkey is the only predominately Muslim country working with U.S. forces in Afghanistan.  Its troops do not engage in combat, but they are involved in training the Afghan military.

Before coming to Washington, Mr. Erdogan made clear he considers Turkish troop levels in Afghanistan to be sufficient.  President Obama - who last week ordered another 30,000 American troops to Afghanistan - has called on allies to provide reinforcements.  But during a brief session with reporters, he made no mention of any such request of Turkey.

Mr. Obama did, however, acknowledge Ankara's efforts to increase its influence in the region.  He talked specifically about Iran's nuclear program and Turkey's role in trying to convince Tehran to abide by international rules and norms.

"I believe that Turkey can be an important player in trying to move Iran in that direction," said Mr. Obama.

Turkey and Iran are major trading partners.  And Prime Minister Erdogan has sought to position Turkey as a mediator in the dispute.

The Turkish leader told White House reporters that his country stands ready to do all it can to find a diplomatic solution.

President Obama and Prime Minister Erdogan also used their meeting to reaffirm their joint commitment to fight terrorism.

Mr. Obama then spoke about terror victims in Turkey.

"I expressed condolences to the prime minister and the Turkish people for the recent terrorist attack that has taken place there and pledged U.S. support for trying to bring the perpetrators of this violence to justice," said President Obama.

The White House meeting was expected to last about 30 minutes, with a luncheon to follow.   Instead, the talks lasted roughly two hours - reflecting the broad agenda the two countries share.  
 

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