The photograph from the Obama-Erdoğan conversation dated July 30, released by the White House on Tuesday, has sparked curiosity in both US and Turkish media, but questions from reporters as to what the photo signified have remained largely unanswered.
In a statement to Turkey's Anatolia news agency, White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the photo was meant to show the closeness of the relationship, as well as the ongoing contact between Obama and Erdoğan regarding the Syrian crisis.
"We posted this photo online with only one goal, and that is to highlight the close relationship of President Obama with Prime Minister Erdoğan, and to draw attention to their meetings on the Syrian crisis," the statement read. "The president cares highly about the partnership and friendship he has with Prime Minister Erdoğan on a series of important issues US works on with Turkey."
The bat was a gift to the president from the American athlete Hank Aaron, the statement also said.
Earlier this week, US Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked several questions about the photo at a press briefing. One reporter asked if the bat was “a diplomatic gift.” Another asked if it was an aluminum or wooden bat. However, Carney laughed it off and said all he could say is that Obama is a baseball fan, adding, “as I think he said, White Sox but also watching the remarkable Washington Nationals.”
Commenting on the photo on Friday, ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Deputy Chairman Ömer Çelik said there was nothing to question about the photo, saying the baseball bat was something that is “part of the American culture.” He added, however, that the latest statement from the White House as to what it signified was rather “interesting.”