Germany's president hopes for thaw in relations with Turkey

Posted by On 3:04 AM

Germany's president hopes for thaw in relations with Turkey

BERLIN â€" Germany's president welcomed his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with full military honors in Berlin on Friday, holding out hope that the state visit will lead to a thaw in relations between the NATO allies.

The two nations have clashed over numerous issues in recent years, including Turkey's jailing of German journalists and a German parliament resolution labeling the early-20th century killing of Armenians in Turkey as "g enocide."

The rhetoric escalated to the point where Erdogan called Germany's mainstream parties "enemies of Turkey" and accused German officials of acting like Nazis, prompting Chancellor Angela Merkel to condemn the Turkish president's words.

At the same time, both countries are strategically critical to one another, with Turkey looking to Germany and the Europea n Union for help with its economic woes, and the EU counting on Ankara to reduce the flow of migrants to Europe.

Ahead of closed-door talks with Erdogan on Friday morning, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier told the RND media group he expected "intensive talks, and hopefully in the future we will treat each other with respect again."

"This visit isn't an expression of normalization â€" we are a long way from that â€" but it could be a start," Steinmeier said.

He added that he would not discuss individual cases, but would not shirk from bringing up human rights abuses in Turkey.

"We cannot, and will not, accept pressure on the media, the judiciary and on trade unions," Steinmeier said. "Only by improving these conditions can Turkey hope for renewed relations with the EU and its individual member states."

Germany is home to more than 3 million people with Turkish roots, and more than 10,000 people were expected to protest the visit of the increasingly authoritarian leader who is viewed with suspicion across the political spectrum. Many others were on hand in support of Erdogan.

Security in the capital was tight, with streets, airspace and a waterway shut down during Erdogan's visit to the downtown government area.

Following the talks with Steinmeier, Erdogan was to meet with Merkel for a working lunch. A joint press conference was scheduled to follow, but Erdogan reportedly was considering canceling his appearance after learning an exiled Turkish journalist with the Cumhuriyet newspaper was being allowed to attend, according to the Bild newspaper. It was not immediately possible to confirm the report.

Ahead of the visit, Erdogan suggested he would also try to patch up relations, writing in an opinion piece in Thursday's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper that it was time to "set aside our differences of opinion and concentrate on our joint interests."

&quo t;Turkey's hope is to develop relations with Germany and other nations as equals on the basis of mutual respect," he wrote.

After a second meeting with Merkel over breakfast Saturday, Erdogan will wrap up his visit in Cologne, where he officially opens a new mosque built by a group with ties to Turkey.

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