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Germany's Merkel On Delicate Visit To Turkey


Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) meets with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has arrived in Turkey for a two-day visit, which is notable for the number of differences of view she has with her hosts. European Union membership for Turkey, sanctions against Iran, the place of the Turkish diaspora in Germany -- all these topics are seen differently in Ankara and Berlin.

The divergences start close to home, with radically differing opinions of Turkey's future place in Europe.

Germany has long espoused the creation of a special relationship, called a "privileged partnership," between Turkey and the European Union. This would fall short of EU membership, and the mere mention of it angers the Turks.

Egemen Bagis, Turkey's minister for European affairs, says Ankara will accept nothing less than full membership. Speaking to reporters, he said no such category exists. So, in his words, "We do not take that option seriously because there is no legal foundation of it. At times, I feel insulted for being offered something which does not exist."

Nevertheless, Merkel referred to it again just before her trip, and in this she has the support of France. Both EU heavyweights are wary of having Turkey in the EU, with its huge mainly Muslim population, and its many unresolved economic, political, and human rights issues.

'Diplomacy And More Diplomacy'

On Iran, Germany and Turkey are wide apart in their thinking on how to persuade Tehran to end its defiance on its nuclear program.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's formula is "diplomacy and more diplomacy." He tells the German news magazine "Spiegel," out today, that "everything else threatens world peace and brings nothing."

He notes that there are already multiple sanctions imposed on Iran, but he asks, "What have they achieved?"

Merkel, by contrast, has moved with the other Western powers to a position of regarding severe sanctions on Iran as the way forward if diplomacy continues to flounder as it has done for years. She made this clear in her weekly video address on March 27.

"If Iran does not in the end show transparency over the question of nuclear energy, we must also consider sanctions," she said.

Merkel said she would discuss sanctions while she is in Ankara.


Turning to the issue of ethnic Turks living in Germany, there are also considerable differences.

More than 4 million people of Turkish origin live in Germany, many of them in the third and fourth generation. Merkel, like most Germans, believes they should be integrated into mainstream German society. Erdogan, on the other hand, appears to want this minority to keep its "Turkishness."

Last week he called for Turkish-language schools be set up in Germany, an idea which did not go down well with Merkel. But in her video talk, she sought to reassure Ankara that she did not want to strip German Turks of their older identity.

"We want people who have been living with us for many years to integrate," she said. "That means take part in their society's successes, in working life, in family life; that means naturally that they can speak German, and respect German law."

Economics will also feature in Merkel's talks in Ankara, as will the Middle East peace process.

with agency reports

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