ANKARA The U.S. President Barack Obama will pay a visit to Turkey in a month or so, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Saturday in Ankara where she is paying a visit. (UPDATED)
Clinton said the visit is "a reflection of the value we place on our friendship with Turkey" and that a date would be set soon.
Diplomatic sources said it is unclear whether this comes under the new administrations goal of visiting Islamic countries or if he will attend the Alliance of Civilizations meetings scheduled in early April in Istanbul.
Clinton arrived in Ankara late on Friday evening and expected to leave late on Saturday under the highest level visit from the new Washington administration since Obama took office in late January.
"The last time I was here, my husband was president. This time, I come as secretary of state, on behalf of our new president, President Obama, to emphasize the work the U.S. and Turkey must do together on behalf of peace, prosperity and progress," Clinton told reporters before holding a joint press conference with Turkish counterpart Ali Babacan.
Early on Saturday Clinton met Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and then she held a meeting with Babacan.
The two ministers discussed various issues including Iraq, the Middle East, Syria, the Balkans, Cyprus, energy security and the global financial crisis, as well as mutual relations in the meeting.
"Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Minister Ali Babacan today reaffirmed the strong bonds of alliance, solidarity and strategic partnership between the Republic of Turkey and the United States as well as commitment of both countries to the principles of peace, democracy, freedom and prosperity enshrined in the shared vision and structured dialogue document in 2006," said the joint statement issued after the meeting.
She said the two allies will consult on the safest, most effective way to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq. Turkey has said it is ready to serve as an exit route for U.S. troops.
"We have to discuss what will pass, what kind of equipment," Babacan said. "We are ready to cooperate."
Diplomatic sources said in the meeting Clinton praised Turkeys productive efforts in Iraq and extended Washingtons support to such efforts.
Turkey has been a supply route for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and relations have improved after hitting a low in 2003 when Turkey refused to allow U.S. forces use its territory as a staging ground for the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
The southern Incirlik air base has been used for transfer of U.S. troops and equipment to Iraq and to Afghanistan. So U.S. troops could leave Iraq across the Iraqi-Turkish border crossing of Habur and travel from there to Incirlik.
An Iraqi-U.S. security pact calls for American troops to withdraw from Iraqi cities by June 30 and completely pull out troops by 2012.
COOPERATION IN FIGHT AGAINST PKK
The top U.S. diplomat pledged their support to Turkeys fight against the terror organization PKK will continue. The two countries will aim to enhance cooperation in the fight against terrorism, particularly against their common enemies PKK and al Qaeda, the joint statement added.
The U.S. will continue its intelligence support to Turkish operations against the PKK and is reviewing ways to be more supportive, the statement said.
The two ministers also said they will work together to enhance energy security and to expand the southern corridor of natural gas and oil infrastructure to enable Caspian basin and Iraqi energy producers to reach European and world markets.
Turkey and the U.S. also pledged to continue cooperation in Afghanistan, including Turkeys continued military contributions to the country.
Finally they reaffirmed their determination to diversify the broad based bilateral relations particularly between the Turkish and American people. In that context the Secretary and Minister announced the establishment of Young Turkey/Young America: A New Relationship For A New Age, the statement added.
Diplomatic sources said the efforts to have the U.S. Congress recognize the Armenian claims regarding the 1915 incidents were not discussed in the meeting. Analysts say the planned visit of Obama, just ahead of the presidential statement regarding the 1915 incidents, signals that the new president will refrain from labeling the incidents as genocide.
Clinton also visited the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the modern Republic of Turkey. "It is an honor to visit once again this extraordinary tribute and memorial to the founder of this great country and to show the friendship of the United States and the Turkish people," she told reporters there.