WASHINGTON – President Bush on Monday endorsed Turkey's drive to join the European Union, commending the nation's leader for overseeing economic reforms.
Bush and Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said their countries share an agenda of stability in the Middle East.
"Our desire is to help people who care about a peaceful future to reject radicalism and extremism," Bush said with Erdogan at his side in the Oval Office, after their private meeting. The two discussed Iraq, Iran and a series of issues related to combatting terrorism.
Erdogan, speaking through an interpreter, said: "It was important to hear the president say that support for Turkey's membership in the European Union will continue."
A day earlier, in remarks at Georgetown University, Erdogan made a pitch for Turkey's membership, saying that "despite all the uncertainty surrounding us, we have become a country ... that is exporting security and stability to the region."
Including Turkey in the EU, he said, would add "strategic depth" to the organization, moving it from a regional actor to a global power.
In the speech, he also said a deep cultural misunderstanding between Western and Muslim societies is fueling radical groups around the world. Erdogan said overcoming differences between the West and Muslims "requires global cooperation."
"We will either all win, or we will all lose," he said.
Turkey's battle with the autonomy-seeking Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, was expected to be a focus of Erdogan's meeting with Bush. Turkish news media quoted Erdogan as saying he would ask Bush to fight the Kurdish rebels based in northern Iraq.
Bush and Erdogan made no mention of the issue after their meeting and took no questions.
Some in Turkey complain about what they see as a lack of U.S. cooperation in the fight against the militants, who frequently launch deadly attacks on Turkish targets.
The United States has pledged its support in cracking down on the rebel group. But Washington has also warned Turkey against pursuing the rebels into northern Iraq, fearing an incursion would alienate Iraqi Kurds.
After Erdogan's meeting with Bush, the prime minister planned to fly to London for talks Tuesday with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.