Turkey, Germany seek strategic partnership despite hurdles
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News | 3/29/2010 12:00:00 AM |
Turkish and German leaders agree Monday on the noun 'partnership' to describe their relationship while shelving a decision on the adjective until later, setting on the interim word 'strategic' amid ongoing debates about Turkey's place in the EU and Turkish immigrants' integration in Germany. Turkish PM Erdoğan describes the talks as 'positive and fruitful'
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Turkey began Monday amid high tension over her stances on Turkish high schools in Germany and Turkey’s entry into the EU. But the two countries are seeking a “strategic partnership” despite the existing hurdles, the European leader and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in a joint press conference after their meeting.
“We discussed the ways to develop our friendly relations and to boost bilateral cooperation,” Erdoğan said, describing the talks as “positive and fruitful.”
In the wake of her controversial remarks rejecting the idea of opening Turkish high schools in Germany and insisting on a “privileged partnership” for Turkey instead of full membership in the EU, Merkel presented Erdoğan with a “white peace pigeon” made by Lara, a 9-year-old German student of Turkish origin, at the beginning of the two leaders’ meeting.
Following the talks, both Merkel and Erdoğan made positive remarks, with some reservations, about developing bilateral cooperation in various fields.
The Turkish community in Germany was one of the issues on the agenda, Erdoğan said, adding: “Our citizens living in Germany need to integrate with society but also preserve their own culture. We agreed that both sides have responsibility on this issue.”
Reiterating that he expects the German government to take a “constructive and facilitating” role, Erdoğan noted that German schools have been open in Turkey for many decades. “I am satisfied to see such a positive will from Mrs. Merkel,” the Turkish prime minister said.
Signaling a potential agreement for opening Turkish high schools in the European country, Erdoğan added that he was “glad to hear that constructive steps will be taken and Turkish schools may similarly be opened in Germany.”
Chancellor Merkel confirmed that the two leaders share a “common goal to develop special relations between Germany and Turkey” and said her remarks about Turkish high schools were misunderstood.
“What we assert is that it is impossible to survive in Germany without German language skills,” Merkel said. “We don’t mean assimilation, but a full integration. Of course everyone has the right to preserve their own cultural roots, but we want them to join social life.”
“We want to see the next generations [of the Turkish community] be employed as scientists, businessmen and teachers, not only laborers,” the chancellor added.
She furthermore expressed agreement with Erdoğan on the schools issue, saying: “Turkey can open schools in Germany like Germany has schools in Turkey. But it shouldn’t be seen an excuse for not learning German. We’ve agreed on this point.”
[HH] EU membership or ‘privileged partnership’?
At the joint press conference, Erdoğan once more underscored that Turkey’s final aim is full membership in the EU, not a “privileged partnership” of the kind that Merkel has suggested.
For her part, the German leader said that the “Cyprus issue needs to be solved.”
“We continue membership negotiations with the principle of pacta sunt servanda. But the Ankara protocol has yet to be implemented,” Merkel said. “A solution in Cyprus will be beneficial for everyone.”
[HH] Dispute over Iran’s nuclear quest
Asked if the two leaders had agreed on new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear-enrichment program, Merkel replied, “There has been no progress for a long time and we will back sanctions unless Iran take a positive step in the near future.”
Merkel also noted the upcoming United Nations meetings, adding: “It will be clear in the future whether we agree on this topic. We’ve agreed to continue our consultations and later make a decision under the U.N. umbrella.”
Erdoğan rebuffed the idea of new sanctions, calling for a diplomatic solution instead. “Iran is our neighbor and strategic partner, especially in the field of energy. You have to consider this,” he said.
The Turkish prime minister said two earlier rounds of sanctions had failed to result in a solution. “We don’t think implementing sanctions is a way out in this region and suggest a diplomatic solution,” he said.
“Turkey is against nuclear armament in this region. If you ask whether there is another nuclear-armed county in the region, my answer is yes, but there is no mention of sanctions against it because it is not a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency,” Erdoğan said, hinting at Israel’s nuclear arms.
Urging support for the use of diplomacy instead, Erdoğan said, “If our friends trust us, Turkey will do its best to end up with a diplomatic solution.”
Merkel had been set to meet earlier Monday with opposition leaders after laying a wreath at Anıtkabir, the mausoleum of modern Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The main opposition leader Deniz Baykal of the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, and Devlet Bahçeli of the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, both turned down the invitation, citing the short time period allotted.
A three-member delegation from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, met with Merkel, asking to be “responsible for the Kurdish community in Germany.”
Merkel also advocated during her visit that German police conduct operations against terror-related crime and said all nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs, should be free of links to terror organizations.