ANKARA (Combined Sources)–President Obama will visit Turkey in April, two senior administration officials said on Saturday, CNN reported.
"The President’s visit to Turkey represents a great opportunity to personally impress upon Turkey’s government and society the importance that he attaches to Turkey ending its denial of the Armenian Genocide and lifting its blockade of Armenia," said the Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of America, Aram Hamparian.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in Ankara Saturday on a diplomatic tour, had said earlier in the day that Obama would visit Turkey soon.
Before meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Clinton announced that “President Obama will be visiting Turkey within the next month or so.
The exact date will be announced shortly,” she said during a joint press conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan.
According to Clinton, Obama’s visit will be “a reflection of the value we place on our friendship with Turkey.”
Clinton was meeting with Turkish officials "to emphasize the work the United States and Turkey must do together on behalf of peace, prosperity and progress," she said.
Obama had said he was going to deliver a speech in a Muslim capital within the first hundred days of his presidency. The visit to Turkey will be his first to a Muslim country since he was inaugurated.
A senior official from the Obama administration confirmed that Turkey is going to be the first Muslim country President Obama is going to visit, CNN reported.
The official added that "it will also provide an opportunity to continue the president’s dialogue with the Muslim world, a dialogue he started immediately and intends to maintain throughout his presidency."
The State Department, meanwhile, issued on Saturday a joint statement from Clinton and Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan reaffirming the close U.S.-Turkish relationship.
The Turkish Hurriyet Daily News reported Saturday that “diplomatic sources said the efforts to have the U.S. Congress recognize the Armenian claims regarding the 1915 incidents were not discussed in the meeting.”
According to a BBC correspondent, Turkey will try to ensure President Obama does not refer to the mass killing of Armenia’s in 1915 as genocide in his statement on April 24.
On Jan. 19, in a statement on the importance of relations between the U.S. and Armenia, Obama said, “As a senator, I strongly support passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.106 and S.Res.106), and as President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.”
Although there is a wide consensus among genocide and Holocaust scholars that the Armenian Genocide took place, the Turkish state continues to vehemently deny that a state-sponsored campaign took the lives of approximately 1.5 million Armenia’s during World War I.
The Armenia’s, the official Turkish argument goes, were victims of ethnic strife, or war and starvation, just like many Muslims living in the Ottoman Empire. Turkey invests millions of dollars in the United States to lobby against resolutions recognizing the Armenian Genocide and to produce denialist literature.
Moreover, many Turkish intellectual who have spoken against the denial have been charged for “insulting Turkishness” under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code.