WASHINGTON – Key Turkish and U.S. officials attending an annual conference here on relations between Ankara and Washington on Sunday praised an improvement in ties between the two allies since President Barack Obama took office in January.
Obama visited Turkey in early April as part of efforts to restore the bilateral relationship damaged during former president George W. Bush's term, mainly due to disputes related to the invasion of Iraq.
"Our ties were already at a high point, and after the president's visit they were elevated to an even higher degree," U.S. Ambassador to Ankara James Jeffrey told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review at a reception marking the conference at the Turkish embassy here. His remarks were in Turkish.
Jeffrey said the United States and Turkey were now cooperating closely on a number of matters ranging from Iran and Iraq to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
National Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül said the U.S.-Turkish ties were having their best time since he became minister six-and-a-half years ago.
Ross Wilson, Jeffrey's predecessor as U.S. ambassador to Ankara, said Obama's "very successful trip to Turkey" had greatly contributed to the improved ties.
ATC seeks bolstered ties
The conference is organized by the American-Turkish Council, or ATC, a group that seeks to boost the two nations' political, defense and trade ties. The ATC's members include major U.S. and Turkish companies doing business in each other's countries.
Chief of General Staff Gen. Ilker Basbug and Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen were due to address the conference's opening dinner Monday night as the Daily News went to press.Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu will be keynote speaker at the conference's closing dinner Tuesday.
The ATC's chairman of the board of directors is Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to former presidents Gerald Ford and George W. H. Bush. The group's president is James Holmes, a former U.S. ambassador.