June 1, 2011, Washington, DC – A Congressional delegation led by Representative Brad Miller (D-NC) returned Tuesday from Turkey after spending four days meeting with the country's political, academic, business, and cultural leaders to develop a better understanding of U.S.-Turkey relations.
The delegation, organized by the Turkish Coalition of America, also included senior advisors from the House Democratic Caucus, the Energy and Commerce Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee, and the offices of Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE), Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) and Rep. Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU).
The delegation spent time in Turkey's largest city, Istanbul, and the capital city, Ankara.
“This visit underscored the importance of the friendship between Turkey and the United States," said Rep. Miller. "Our nations are both secular democracies and market economies. Each of us is more prosperous and secure if the other is prosperous and secure.”
From May 27-28, the delegation attended Bahcesehir University's Global Leadership Forum in Istanbul. On the first day, Rep. Miller joined Turkish State Minister Egemen Bagis in speaking to the audience of consul generals, ambassadors, business leaders, and academics about the importance of the U.S.-Turkey bilateral relationship. The next day, Rep. Miller joined U.S. Consul General Scott Kilner and TCA President G. Lincoln McCurdy to discus topics including the growing role of Turkish Americans in U.S. politics.
The delegation conducted several high-level meetings in Ankara. They met with Professor Nuket Yetis, the president of the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey, who briefed them on bilateral scientific cooperation. They had lunch with Douglas Silliman, the Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy. And after visiting the mausoleum of the founder of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, they sat down with Ambassador Selim Yenel, Turkey's Deputy Undersecretary for Bilateral Affairs and Public Diplomacy. Amb. Yenel briefed the delegation on Turkish relations with several countries, including Israel, Iran, and Armenia, as well as the current status of Turkish cooperation in U.S.-led military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans.
“This delegation, like past delegations, has found that the U.S. and Turkey share the same international objectives,” said TCA President McCurdy. “While there may be differences in our two countries’ approaches to achieving those objectives, both are contributing to global growth and stability through their respective efforts.”
Throughout the trip, the group was also exposed to Turkey's diverse culture. On May 28, the group joined TCA founders Yalcin and Serpil Ayasli for a class with master chef Vedat Basaran on understanding Turkish food at the Ayaslis' Armaggan establishment. On May 29, the group sat down with minority religious representatives from the Jewish and Greek Orthodox communities to discuss their respective lifestyles in Turkey.
The group was also given the opportunity to visit some of Istanbul's most famous sites, including the Bazaar, the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia, and the Spice Market. They also had the opportunity to take a boat ride down the Bosphorus River, which separates the European and Asian sides of Istanbul, while meeting with consular representatives from Israel, Slovakia, Macedonia, and Austria, as well as representatives from Turkish NGOs, universities, and businesses.