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7 Apr, 2009 00:15

America seeks better relations with the Muslim world

Relations between the United States and Turkey are on a strong footing, U.S. President Barack Obama has said during his first visit to a predominantly Muslim country.

Obama told the Turkish parliament that Washington wants better relations with the Muslim world, in particular with Turkey.

"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 promised to seek common ground even in areas where there are considerable differences.

"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.

President Obama said he fully supported Turkey’s bid to enter the European Union and underlined the importance of its role as a bridge between cultures in Europe. He said the EU has nothing to fear but much to gain from Turkey joining the organization.

Dr. Walid Phares of the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies says Turkey can help the U.S. improve its image in the Muslim world.

“Barack Obama and his advisers think that establishing good relations with Turkey, which is secular but has an overwhelming majority of Muslims, will be the right door for America to refurbish its image in the Muslim world,” he said.

And Soner Cagaptay from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy believes that Barack Obama’s visit to Turkey is more about Turkey ‘European-ness’ and ‘Western-ness’ than about a message out to the Islamic world.

During the visit, Barack Obama met with Turkey’s president Abdullah Gul and the pair discussed the war in Iraq, relations with Iran and the conflict in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, in the Turkish capital Ankara hundreds of demonstrators protested Obama's visit and in Istanbul, Greenpeace activists urged the U.S. president to stick to his campaign promise and tackle climate change.