U.S. President Barack Obama said he wants better relations with the Muslim world in general, and Turkey in particular. Mr. Obama used a speech to the Turkish parliament to try and repair ties strained by the Iraq War.
Barack Obama said he came to Turkey at the end of his first overseas trip as president for a reason.
"Some people have asked me if I chose to continue my travels to Ankara and Istanbul to send a message to the world. My answer is simple: "evet "…yes," he said.
Standing before Turkish parliamentarians, he said he wants to restore trust not just between the United States and Turkey, but America and the Muslim world.
"Let me say this as clearly as I can: The United States is not and will never be at war with Islam," he said.
The president said America seeks a partnership based on mutual interests and mutual respect. Mr. Obama promised to listen and seek common ground, even in areas of deep disagreement.
"We will be respectful, even when we do not agree. And we will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over so many centuries to shape the world - including my own country", he said. "The United States has been enriched by Muslim Americans. Many other Americans have Muslims in their families, or have lived in a Muslim-majority country - I know, because I am one of them," he added.
White House officials said this was not the president's long-awaited speech to the Muslim world, although it is being seen as part of his outreach to members of the Islamic faith.
Most of his remarks dealt specifically with U.S. Turkish relations.
The president spoke of Turkey as a critical ally and an important part of Europe. He stressed its role as a bridge between cultures, and its unique position as a large secular democracy with a 99 percent majority Muslim population.
"Turkey's greatness lies in your ability to be at the center of things. This is not where East and West divide. This is where they come together," he said.
Mr. Obama said he supports Turkey's bid to join the European Union, which faces opposition from Germany and France. He said the E.U. has nothing to fear and much to gain by adding Turkey to its ranks.
"Europe gains by diversity of ethnicity, tradition and faith - it is not diminished by it. And Turkish membership would broaden and strengthen Europe's foundation once more,"
The president talked not just about Turkey's future but its past, alluding to perhaps the most controversial moment in its history - the widespread killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915.
Historians call the killings the first genocide of the 20th century. But Turkey says the Armenians were victims of a civil war, and lives were lost on both sides.
As a candidate for president, Barack Obama said he would sign an Armenian genocide resolution pending in the U.S. congress. But in Ankara he said he will set his personal views aside, and let the Turks and Armenians settle the matter themselves.
"We are going to be a partner in working through these issues in such a way that the most important parties - the Turks and the Armenians - are finally coming to terms in a constructive way."
The president never used the word "genocide" during his stay in the Turkish capital. He noted discussions are underway between the parties involved and he wants them to bear fruit.