German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has called for the revival of stalled talks on Turkey joining the European Union.
Westerwelle, speaking at the official opening of the new Turkish Embassy in Berlin, said he hoped for a “new beginning” for negotiations next year.
"For more than two years, no new chapter has been opened in the European Union accession talks," Westerwelle said. "This standstill is not good; it is bad for both sides, and next year we want to make a new beginning to overcome this standstill."
The embassy inauguration on October 30 was attended by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was expected to hold talks the following day with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The talks are expected to focus on the EU membership question, as well as the situation in war-torn Syria, Turkey’s neighbor.
Merkel and her Christian Democratic Union party have opposed full Turkish membership of the European Union, while the German foreign minister has supported it.
Turkey is Germany’s ally in NATO, but Merkel has argued that instead of EU membership, predominantly Muslim Turkey should have what’s described as a privileged partnership with the western bloc.
Turkey’s EU membership bid was officially launched in 2005, but little progress has been made in talks due to opposition from key leaders in Germany and France and Turkey’s continuing dispute with Greece over the divided island of Cyprus. Cyprus is an EU member.
EU reviews have also regularly faulted Turkey for not meeting the EU’s standards on human rights and freedom of speech.
In his speech on October 30, the German foreign minister argued for Turkey’s inclusion in the EU, citing trade links and Germany’s population of nearly 3 million people with Turkish background.
"Germany is Turkey's most important trade partner," he said. "Almost 3 million people of Turkish origin live in Germany. Most of them are German citizens. They enrich our culture and they are an integral part of our society. They are a part of us.”
Westerwelle also spoke against anti-Turkish bias. Many Germans were shocked after disclosures late last year revealed that neo-Nazi extremists carried out a seven-year racist murder spree across Turkey, killing nine people, mostly ethnic Turks.
"We will not tolerate extremism, intolerance, or xenophobia," Westerwelle said. "Xenophobia against people of Turkish origin or international guests of other nationalities works against us all. This is not culture, this 'un-culture' against which we stand up together."
The new Turkish Embassy in Berlin is reported to be Turkey’s largest diplomatic mission abroad, reportedly built at a cost of 30 million euros.
Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP