Continuing his foreign tour into Turkey, President Barack Obama told Turkish lawmakers Monday that he stood behind their bid to join the European Union.
The president also stressed that the U.S. remains a friend to the Muslim world, even as the country fights Islamic terrorism.
Obama, speaking before Turkey's parliament, unequivocally repeated that the U.S. strongly supports Turkey's attempt to join the European Union.
We speak not as members of the EU, but as close friends of both Turkey and Europe, the president said, adding that Turkey is bound to Europe by more than the bridges over the Bosphorous.
The president also used the opportunity to affirm America's friendship with Muslim countries, highlighting his own connection to Islam.
So let me say this as clearly as I can: The United States is not, and will never be, at war with Islam, Obama said.
The United States has been enriched by Muslim Americans, he added. Many other Americans have Muslims in their families or have lived in a Muslim-majority country -- I know, because I am one of them.
In last year's presidential election, Obama, who is a Christian, had his religion turned into an issue, with some trying to use his family's connections to Islam as a way to alienate some voters.
But Obama stressed that U.S. did not just see Muslims in terms of the war on terror, saying that the country sought a broader relationship with the Muslim world.
I also want to be clear that America's relationship with the Muslim community, the Muslim world, cannot, and will not, just be based upon opposition to terrorism, he said. We seek broader engagement based on mutual interest and mutual respect.
The trip to Turkey is the latest stop on a tour that took the president through Europe last week. Obama began at a G20 meeting in London, continued into France and Germany for a meeting of NATO and went on to an EU event in Prague, Czech Republic over the weekend.
At the G20 meeting, Obama, along with the other leaders of the world's most powerful economies, pledged continued efforts to get the world out of the current downturn. At the NATO meeting, Obama tried to mend fences after America's unilateral approach to foreign relations under the Bush Administration. And in Prague, the president pledged efforts toward nuclear disarmament during his time in office.
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