The cities of Washington, D.C. and Ankara, Turkey embarked on a long-term partnership to link citizens, city governments, and business and cultural communities on October 3, 2011. I was honored to deliver remarks at the signing ceremony for the Washington, D.C. and Ankara Sister City Agreement at the Washington, D.C. Municipal Building where Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and Ankara Mayor Melih Gokcek signed the agreement before an audience of U.S. and Turkish political and community leaders. Mayor Gokcek was accompanied by a delegation of 45 Turkish citizens, including the mayors of five Turkish municipalities. Turkish Ambassador Namik Tan also attended.
This signing ceremony was the culmination of a weekend of festivities in honor of the Sister City Agreement. Mayor Gray and Mayor Gokcek were guests of honor at the ninth Washington, D.C. Turkish Festival organized by the American Turkish Association of Washington, D.C on October 2. Expressing enthusiasm about the new partnership between the two capitals, Mayor Gray stated that "U.S. Turkey bonds of friendship are deep," and this agreement strengthens our "commitment to broaden understanding between our peoples."
I wholeheartedly share this sentiment. Turkey and the United States have one of the deepest, broadest, and most dynamic bilateral relationships in the world. I am certain that this agreement will be highly beneficial to the citizens of both capital cities who have much in common and serve as beacons of culture and diplomacy for their respective nations.
I look forward to witnessing the development of strong economic, cultural, and political bonds between the citizens of these two great cities. Both Mayor Gray and Mayor Gokcek plan to move quickly to forge these bonds with a variety of activities, including reciprocal visits and the sponsorship of cultural days in their respective capitals to highlight the partnership.
At the signing ceremony, Mayor Gray paid tribute to the outstanding work of Sister Cities International. For almost 55 years, Sister Cities International has empowered citizen diplomats, as they engage in meaningful international exchange programs. I too applaud Sister Cities for assisting Washington, D.C. and Ankara in forming this relationship, and I offer my congratulations and best wishes to both cities.