US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, who arrived in İstanbul Tuesday, had a hectic schedule for the day, as he held talks with representatives of different segments of Turkish society during his one-day stay in İstanbul before moving on to the capital Ankara today for talks with senior Turkish officials.
Ahead of his visit, the US State Department described Burns' visit as aimed to "discuss a range of strategic issues with the new Turkish government and to reaffirm the great importance the US attaches to its alliance with Turkey." This will be the first in a series of high-level meetings between the United States and the new Turkish government that will take place this autumn, the State Department also said in its brief statement.
Last Mod: 19 Eylül 2007, 13:58
In İstanbul, Burns visited the İstanbul Amerikan Robert Lisesi, more commonly known as Robert College, which was founded in 1863 by two Americans, and then held talks with directors of leading think tank the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV). Burns met with Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew and also visited the Süleymaniye Mosque, constructed in the 16th century by Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan.
Last week, delivering a speech at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C., to an audience including several former US ambassadors to Turkey and current Turkish Ambassador to the United States Nabi Şensoy, Burns said that Turkey can help make its own case with the European Union by reopening the Halki Theological School on Heybeliada Island near İstanbul. The seminary was closed to new students in 1971 under a law that put religious and military training under state control. The seminary once trained generations of Greek Orthodox leaders, including Bartholomew. The seminary remained open until 1985, when the final five students graduated. On Tuesday evening, after Today's Zaman went to print, Burns was scheduled to attend iftar (evening fast-breaking meal) with members of the Turkish Parliament, representatives of the Turkish business sector, religious leaders, students and civil society activists.
Today in Ankara, Burns will meet with President Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as well as holding talks with senior diplomats at the Foreign Ministry, including Undersecretary for the Foreign Ministry Ambassador Ertuğrul Apakan. In his Washington speech last week, Burns also said that the United States government looks forward to a "very close relationship" with both Gül and Erdoğan.