|U.S. President Barack Obama will visit Turkey between April 6-7 to attend an annual forum of the Alliance of Civilizations in Istanbul, Spanish diplomatic sources said on Monday. Turkeys president said Tuesday Obama's planned visit was very important. (UPDATED)
Obama will attend the second annual forum of the U.N.-led Alliance of Civilizations initiative, co-chaired by Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and his Spanish counterpart Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the sources told Spain's official news agency EFE.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was in Ankara for talks with Turkish leaders, said last Saturday Obama would visit Turkey in a month, without giving the exact date of the planned trip.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul said Tuesday Obama's planned visit was very important.
"This visit is obviously important both for Turkey and the U.S. as the two countries have common interests in many world issues, particularly those pertaining to our region," Gul told a press conference before departing for Iran to attend a cooperation summit in the capital Tehran.
Gul said Obama's visit would also present an opportunity to take up bilateral relations, which he described as "one of the main pillars of Turkish foreign policy".
"A new era has started with the messages the new U.S. administration has relayed and with its novel approach. Everyone should prepare for this new era as it would be important for peace and stability in the world," Gul said.
A spokesman for the U.S. State Department also said on Monday that Obamas visit to Turkey would be significant.
"Well, I think it is quite significant that President Obama will be going to Turkey. They're working out the details of that visit. But Turkey is an important ally, and there is a lot of business to do with Turkey, and we think it is significant that the president has decided to go," U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Wood told reporters at a daily press briefing.
The United States is continuing to review the possibility of Turkey mediating talks between Iran and the U.S., Wood said, adding "I don't want to speculate as to what we might do."
"Let me just say that we have offered our hand to the government of Iran, and we hope to be able to engage this government on a whole range of issues. But a lot of it is going to depend on Iran and its willingness to engage and to change its behavior in a number of areas where we have concern," he added.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said last Sunday his country would weigh any requests by the two sides to serve as a mediator between Iran and the United States after Clinton said Washington would seek Turkeys assistance for Obama's plan to engage Tehran.
The U.S. and Iran have not had diplomatic ties for three decades and are now embroiled in a row over Tehran's nuclear program. The West suspects Iran of trying to build a nuclear bomb under guise of a peaceful atomic energy program, a charge Tehran rejects.