Erdoğan is among dozens of world leaders in Washington for President Barack Obama's nuclear security summit. He spoke Monday at George Mason University's new Center for Global Islamic Studies in Fairfax, Virginia, just outside the US capital.
Turkey currently holds one of the rotating seats on the UN Security Council, and the United States is hoping Turkey will cooperate with efforts to impose sanctions against Iran as punishment for its alleged work toward creating nuclear weapons.
While the United States worries about Iran's nuclear program, Turkey has its own concerns about Israel's nuclear program. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opted not to attend the Obama's summit, and insiders said he had expected Turkey and Egypt to use the conference as a platform to challenge him over his country's widely assumed nuclear arsenal, which the Jewish state never has acknowledged.
Erdoğan, in his remarks, did not specifically mention Israel's nuclear program, but he criticized its treatment of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and called Gaza an "open-air prison."
While he specifically said Turkey does not want nuclear weapons in "our region," he also said Ankara "would like to see all countries possessing nuclear weapons work to eliminate them in a certain time frame." His remarks in Turkish were translated by an interpreter.
As for Iran's nuclear ambitions, Erdoğan noted that Tehran has denied it is pursuing a nuclear weapon, but he also said that the International Atomic Energy Agency, the world's nuclear watchdog, has faulted Iran for a lack of transparency.
Previously Turkey has indicated it did not support sanctions to punish Iran. Other current Security Council members, specifically Lebanon and Brazil, also are opposed to sanctions. China, a permanent member that can veto Security Council action, said last week it was willing to join in consultations about sanctioning Iran.
Chinese President Hu Jintao and Obama met Monday and the White House said they agreed to work on potential sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
In his prepared remarks, Erdoğan also criticized a long-running effort in the US Congress to pass a resolution declaring that Armenians were victims of Turkish 'genocide' nearly a century ago.
"We are against a one-sided interpretation of history," Erdoğan said. "History cannot be written in parliament and judged by parliament."
Turkey recalled its US ambassador last month in protest after the Foreign Affairs Committee in the House of Representatives passed a resolution declaring that the Ottoman-era killings amounted to 'genocide.' The full House has not voted on the resolution.
Armenians claim that 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I. Turkey denies that the deaths constituted genocide, saying the toll has been inflated and those killed were victims of civil war and unrest.