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Page last updated at 14:01 GMT, Saturday, 7 March 2009

Obama trip to Turkey within weeks

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Turkish President Abdullah Gul  in Ankara on 7 March 2009
The visit is seen as a good chance to repair ties between two old allies

President Barack Obama will visit Turkey "in a month or so", US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said on a visit to Ankara.

She met Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the first visit by a member of the new US administration to Turkey.

Turkey's foreign minister said Ankara was ready to re-launch indirect talks between Syria and Israel.

Mrs Clinton said the importance of building relations between Israel and Syria could not be overstated.

Turkey was mediating those talks until recently, but Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said any request to resume that role must come from both sides.

"President Obama will be visiting Turkey within the next month or so," said Mrs Clinton, at a joint news conference with Mr Babacan. "The exact date will be announced shortly."

'Low perceptions'

The two allies would consult on the safest and most effective way to withdraw US forces from Iraq, she added.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lays a wreath at the mausoleum of modern Turkey’s secular founder Kemal Ataturk in Ankara on 7 March 2009
America wants to reach out to Turkey's public, say analysts

Mr Obama is due to head for Europe next month to attend the G20 summit in London on 2 April.

Ankara has already indicated it will allow the US to use its territory and bases for the planned withdrawal of troops.

The war in Iraq was just one reason perception of the US plunged to a historic low in the predominantly Muslim nation, says the BBC's Sarah Rainsford in Istanbul, and Mrs Clinton wants to reach out to that public.

In addition to her formal meetings, Mrs Clinton is making an appearance on a popular daytime chat show, hosted by four women.

It is the final stop of a week-long foreign tour by America's top diplomat.

Our correspondent says after a fraught relationship with the Bush administration, the visit is seen as a chance to reaffirm the two countries' alliance.

Turkey calls the US secretary of state's trip "important confirmation" of its strategic relationship with America.

Analysts in Turkey see the visit as a sign the Obama administration plans to revitalise its support for Turkey's EU accession efforts.

Our correspondent says Turkey is expected to try to ensure President Obama does not refer to the mass killing of Armenians in 1915 as genocide, in his speech on the anniversary of the forced deportations next month.



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