U.S. President Barack Obama urged Turkey on Monday to speed up liberal reforms aimed at bringing the Muslim country into the European Union.
Obama said during a speech before parliament that Turkey had made progress on freedom of expression and minority rights for Kurdish people, but said Ankara should press on with reforms.
"Important part of Europe"
Obama said that Turkey was an important ally of the United States, and an important part of Europe.
Obama is making his first visit as U.S. president to Turkey.
He aimed at maintaining the friendship and alliance between the two countries, Obama told Turkish lawmakers in the Turkish capital of Ankara.
Obama said that Turkey and the United States should work together and resolve the problems of the time.
The president told the Turkish lawmakers that he was impressed by Anitkabir, the Mausoleum of Ataturk, in the morning because Ataturk was a leader who changed history.
The biggest heritage of Ataturk, the Founder of the Republic of Turkey, was the vivid and secular democracy of Turkey and the Turkish parliament was maintaining that, Obama said.
Obama said that Turkey had not come to those days easily, and Turkey could have surrendered to foreign forces at the end of World War I or preferred to maintain the empire.
However, Turkey adopted a different future and founded a Republic, which gained the respect of the United States and other world countries, he said.
Obama said that Turkey's democracy was Turkey's own success, and democracy was not imposed to Turkey.
The U.S. president said that Turkey gained power from its previous achievements, got stronger with each generation, and moved forward.
Rich heritage between East and West
Speaking at a joint press conference together with Turkish President Abdullah Gul, Obama said he was grateful to Gul and his team and thanked to hospitality of Turkish people.
Obama said he has been touring in Europe for a week, noting that he wanted to make a statement about the importance of Turkey not just to the United states but to the world by ending his tour in Turkey.
Obama said Turkey was situated at the intersection point of the East and the West and described Turkey as a country having an extremely extraordinary and rich heritage.
Obama said Turkey was a country having a vivid economy, respecting supremacy of law and democracy and sheltering former civilizations and modern nation states.
Stating that Turkey was a NATO member, Obama said Turkey has a genuine place with its overwhelmingly Muslim population and indicated that those were extremely important peculiarities in regional and strategical sense.
Obama said he and Turkish President assessed Turkey's assistance to Afghanistan and focused on some specific points in strategical sense. He said they discussed what the parties could do for the future, in what perspective they should work, and Turkey's contributions in this scope.
U.S. President said they discussed developments recorded in Iraq, how the developments in question could be maintained and what could be done while the U.S. was withdrawing from Iraq. Obama said the parties underlined having a mutual point of view and the requirements of this.
Obama said they separately discussed trade and business world, indicating that relations between the two countries were not only limited to military matters but that there were things to be done in economic area.
Obama said communication channels between the two countries would become better, noting that this would be better both for Turkey and the United States.