THE BLOG
05/14/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Getting Back to Work Following the U.S.-Turkey Visit

With President Obama's symbolic visit now one week behind us, hard work for both Turkey and the United States lies ahead in dealing with the challenges presented by the world economy, Afghanistan, Iraq, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, religious extremism, border disputes, energy concerns and countless other issues. And while we may not agree on the best approach to every situation, we agree on two major things. First, no country in the region is better equipped to play a central role than Turkey. And second, the time to pursue real solutions to these urgent problems is now.

By choosing Turkey for his first bilateral overseas visit, Mr. Obama reaffirmed Turkey's role as a central player in global affairs. "Turkey's greatness lies in your ability to be at the center of things. This is not where East and West divide -- this is where they come together," said President Obama. His visit highlighted the opportunities partnership with Turkey offers. Turkey stands as a predominantly Muslim country, member of NATO and a democracy with a secular government. Our borders cross Asia, the Middle East and Europe, providing us with a rare transcontinental perspective and extraordinarily cultural understanding.

Since 1952 Turkey has served as an active member and contributor to NATO. We've commanded the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan twice since 2002. Through our military and civilian activities, we've played a leadership role in Afghanistan -- and continue to call on others to do so as well. We've actively supported critical Israeli-Syrian negotiations and seek peace in the region. We recently hosted the leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan and are making progress in establishing a working relationship between these two neighbors. Our capacity to talk to difficult actors in the Middle East is an invaluable asset. As part of the G20, we're collaborating with other major economies to confront the current crisis. And as a newly elected member to the UN Security Council we look forward to shouldering global responsibilities. Together, we can change this difficult neighborhood for the better.

Now Mr. Obama calls upon Turkey to join the United States "to overcome the challenges of our time" as a "critical ally." Our conversations reminded us that our countries share many of the same foreign policy goals -- and are united by our belief that together we will be more successful in reaching them in partnership with Turkey's neighbors.

A reinvigorated U.S.-Turkey relationship at this particular moment in time holds great possibilities. So now, with the photo ops concluded and the television crews departed, we are getting back to work. My colleagues and I in the Turkish Parliament are rolling up our sleeves because we feel it is time to channel the excitement of our new beginning into a momentum for real partnership.

Suat Kiniklioglu is a Member of Turkish Parliament and Spokesman of the Foreign Affairs Committee.