ANKARA- U.S. President Barack Obama officially began his two-day landmark visit to Turkey on Monday in Ankara. Here are some highlights from his first day.
Obama greeted soldiers at Çankaya Presidential Palace in Turkish, saying, "Merhaba Asker!" (Hello Soldier!)
Tight security measures have been taken in Ankara for Obama's visit. In the capital many roads on the convoy's route have been blocked and thousands of policemen from special operations teams have been deployed along the routes. Mobile phone jammers have also been activated in the area.
The lives of Ankara residents were disrupted because of massive road closures and strict security measures taken to guarantee the safety of President Obama during his stay.
Praising modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk as a "man with vision, tenacity and courage who put Turkey on the path of democracy," Obama concluded quoting one of Atatürk’s most popular sayings, "Peace at home, peace in the world," in the memorial book at Atatürk's mausoleum, where he laid a wreath.
Under heavy security measures with about 4,000 policemen on duty, Barack Obama proceeded from Atatürk’s mausoleum to the presidential palace where President Abdullah Gül warmly greeted him. He was honored with a 21-gun salute, which startled President Obama, who was stunned by the noise from the first shot.
The left-handed Barack Obama wrote a message in a guest book at Atatürk's mausoleum. He wrote his message for nearly four minutes.
The commanders of the Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK, who did not join any official reception, ceremony or special session organized in Parliament after the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party, or DTP, entered Parliament, changed their attitudes. The top cadre of the military, after a hiatus of 21 months, was present in Parliament to listen to Obama’s speech.
One of the interesting guests among participants invited by the U.S. Embassy to listen to Obama’s Parliamentary speech was Oksan Oztok, an activist defending homosexual rights.
Some 350 national and international press members followed Obama’s speech in Parliament. Around 50 domestic and international media institutions were in Parliament to convey Obama’s speech to the world in cooperation with the state-run Turkish Radio and Television Corporation, or TRT, and parliament TV.
Extraordinary security measures have been taken in Parliament for Barack Obama’s visit. Cars were not permitted to enter the grounds and snipers were deployed on the roofs of nearby buildings. Besides the presence of Turkish security officers, four American security officers including, two female deputies, were also in attendence at police checkpoints.
At a joint press conference at the Çankaya Presidential Palace, the US and Turkish presidents began their remarks by offering condolences to those who died in the earthquake in Italy.
Obama in his speech at Parliament praised the two Turkish basketball players Hidayet Türkoğlu and Mehmet Okur who play in the U.S.
Obama's remarks, "The United States has been enriched by Muslim Americans. Many other Americans have Muslims in their family, or have lived in a Muslim-majority country Ğ I know, because I am one of them," received an enthusiastic ovation from the audience in Parliament.