"I'm trying to make a statement about the importance of Turkey not just to the United States but to the world," Obama said during a joint address with Turkish President Abdullah Gul.
Besides its rich heritage, Turkey "represents a blend of those ancient traditions with a modern nation state that respects democracy, respects rule of law and is striving towards a modern economy," Obama said.
Gul said the two had a wide-ranging discussion of issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and terrorism, as well as expanding the breadth of U.S.-Turkish relations.
"Most of our relations seem to be on a military and political dimension, but we are also determined to move forward on the economic dimension of our relations," Gul said through a translator.
Obama said he was encouraged by Gul's efforts to conduct negotiations between Armenia and Turkey to resolve many longstanding issues, including Turkey's acknowledgment of the widespread killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War II, which historians say is the first instance of genocide in the 20th century.
Gul said the dispute was a historical issue and that historians, "the experts on the subject, sit down and talk about this issue. ... So that's why we suggested that a joint history commission be established and that we would agree to the results or the conclusions of this commission."
Obama and Gul opened the session by expressing condolences to people affected by a killer earthquake that struck L'Aquila, Italy, Monday.
"We share the sorrow of the Italian people," Gul said through a translator.