Obama meets religious leaders in Istanbul

April 7th, 2009 - 5:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Ankara, April 7 (DPA) US President Barack Obama met religious leaders in Istanbul Tuesday on the second day of his visit to Turkey where he has attempted to repair frayed ties with both Turkey and the wider Muslim world. The ties had hit a low during the previous US administration of George W. Bush.
Obama held a group meeting with Armenian Orthodox Archbishop Aran Stesyan, Chief Rabbi of Istanbul Isak Haleva, Grand Mufti of Istanbul Mustafa Cagrici and Syrian Orthodox Archbishop Yusuf Cetin before holding a private meeting with Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I.

Accompanied by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the US president then toured two of Istanbul’s most popular tourist and religious sites: the Hagia Sophia, a former basilica turned mosque that is now a museum, and the nearby Blue Mosque.

No statement was released after the meeting.

In the afternoon Obama was scheduled to hold a town hall meeting with a specially selected group of university students before departing Istanbul for Washington.

Tuesday’s agenda was much more low key compared to that of Monday when he addressed the Turkish parliament in Ankara.

During his address Obama moved to heal rifts between the US and Turkey, as well as the Islamic world, that were caused by the US-led invasion of Iraq, stressing the need for cooperation and not just the use of force to stop Islamic extremists.

The president also stressed that the US supports Turkey’s bid to join the European Union and recent efforts between Turkey and Armenia to normalise relations.

The visit fulfils Obama’s promise to visit a Muslim country in the first 100 days of the new administration.

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