Making Good On His Promise, Obama Visits Turkey Obama's final scheduled stop on his European tour is a two-day visit to Turkey, where he will address the Turkish parliament Monday.
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Making Good On His Promise, Obama Visits Turkey

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Making Good On His Promise, Obama Visits Turkey

Making Good On His Promise, Obama Visits Turkey

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

From NPR News, this is WEEKEND EDITION. I'm Linda Wertheimer. Liane Hansen is away. This morning President Barack Obama condemned North Korea for launching a missile, which apparently landed in the Pacific Ocean. The President called on the U.N. Security Council to take action. Mr. Obama spoke of the dangers of nuclear proliferation from Prague while on his weeklong trip to Europe. His final scheduled stop is a two-day visit to Turkey and he will address the Turkish parliament tomorrow. NPR's Peter Kenyon reports from Ankara.

PETER KENYON: There may be no better example than Turkey if you're looking for evidence that President Obama's foreign policy message of more diplomacy and less force has dramatically resurrected America's image abroad. Serkan Demirtas, Ankara bureau chief of the Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review, says it's hard to overstate the depth of anti-American feelings during the Bush years. A poll a few years ago ranked Bush at the bottom of the list of trusted foreign leaders, well below Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Mr. SERKAN DEMIRTAS (Ankara Bureau Chief, Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review): After the elections in the States, Obama, now he's the most trusted foreign leader for Turks. This even shows how the feelings in this country have changed.

KENYON: When President Obama addresses Turkish lawmakers tomorrow, he will be reminding them of the last president to speak here, Bill Clinton. Again, the contrast with the Bush administration resonates with the Turks. Former ambassador to the U.S., Faruk Logoglu, says during the Bush years Washington seemed intent on holding Turkey up as the model of a moderate Muslim state, especially after the Islamic AK Party was elected here.

Many Turks passionately insist that's not accurate, that Turkey is a secular democratic state that happens to be 90 percent Muslim. It's a distinction that the Obama administration seems sensitive to, says Logoglu, which may be why the president is coming here at the tail end of a European trip and not as part of a Mideast swing.

Mr. FARUK LOGOGLU (Former Turkish Ambassador To U.S.): He will make a major address to the Turkish parliament. In that address, like President Clinton did some years ago, he will, I think, galvanize Turkish public opinion. This is going to be the greatest value. I think President Obama wants to see Turkey firmly anchored in the West as a member of NATO, as a future member of the European Union.

KENYON: A rejuvenated U.S.-Turkey relationship holds promise on a number of fronts. Turkey hosted indirect Syrian-Israeli talks last year. It has long-standing ties with Afghanistan and Pakistan, two of the most critical geopolitical areas in the world today. Turkey also has important commerce with Iran and Russia. So it's clear what the west has to gain from a more engaged Turkey, but what does Turkey want? One thing Ankara wants is a stable Iraq, especially Kurdish northern Iraq, from where separatist PKK militants have staged their attacks into southern Turkey.

There's also a potential controversy, the long-running Armenian genocide dispute. Turkey refuses to call the World War I era violence by Ottoman Turks against Armenians a genocide, although historians say up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed. It's not clear that it will come up tomorrow in the address to parliament, but Armenian Independence Day is coming on April 24th.

Professor Meliha Altunisik at Ankara's Mideast Technical University says, considering that Obama called it genocide during the campaign, much attention will be paid to how the White House describes it now.

Professor MELIHA ALTUNISIK (Mideast Technical University): Right, definitely. I mean, this is one of the stumbling blocks, I think, in the relationship, whether President Obama will refer to these events as a genocide. There would be a reaction in Turkey, definitely. It would flare up nationalist sentiments and it would affect Turkish-American relations.

KENYON: No doubt more political minefields await, but for now Turkey is thrilled to welcome the new American president and his message of diplomacy, dialogue and engagement - and is eager to regain to its role as a political, as well as geographical crossroads.

Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Ankara.

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