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WATCH LIVE: Obama, Turkish prime minister hold joint press conference

The prime minister's visit highlights the friendship between the two countries and the "strategic importance" of broadening and deepening the relationship, the White House said.

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The public event comes as the president faces tough criticism over the recent controversies involving the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of Tea Party groups and the Justice Department's seizure of journalists' phone records.

GOP lawmakers are also investigating the administration's handling of the deadly terrorist attack last September in Benghazi, Libya.

The White House on Wednesday released 100 pages of inter-agency emails to reject charges that the administration sought to hide the terrorist nature of the attack.

Erdoğan's visit also comes as Obama faces pressure to do more to aid Syrian rebels seeking the ouster of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The White House has been reluctant to provide weapons to opposition forces in fear they could fall into the hands of Islamist or anti-Western elements.

But the violence in Syria threatens to spill over its borders. In Turkey near the Syrian border, two car bombs exploded on Saturday, killing 43 people, according to Reuters. The area is home to thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing that nation's civil war.

In a statement, Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. stands with Turkey as an ally, adding that the attack strikes "an especially personal note for all of us given how closely we work in partnership with Turkey." Kerry called Turkey a "vital interlocutor" for him since he was sworn in as secretary of State.

At 1:30 p.m., Kerry and Vice President Biden will deliver remarks in honor of Erdoğan at a State Department lunch.

In addition to the press briefing, the president and Turkish prime minister will participate in a morning meeting and working dinner, which are both closed to the press.

—Peter Schroeder contributed.