Discuss Turkey's EU bid, Merkel and Erdogan reaffirm principle of pacta sund servanda
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan welcomed his German Chancellor Angela Merkel, on a two-day official visit to Turkey, with full military honors before the Prime Ministry building in Ankara. The two later had a meeting focused on bilateral relations and trade ties, Turkey's European Union accession process, the Cyprus issue and integration problems facing resident Turks in Germany, in addition to a number of issues of common concern such as peace and stability in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Iran's controversial nuclear program. Speaking at a joint press conference afterwards, Merkel reiterated her country's support for what she called "open-ended" accession talks between Turkey and the EU. She said that they also reaffirmed their commitment to the principle of pacta sund servanda, or pacts must be respected. Merkel and French President Sarkozy have held out "privileged partnership" proposals to Turkey in lieu of full EU membership, something Turkey has firmly rejected, saying there is no option for its EU accession process besides full membership. Merkel said they suggested "privileged partnership" as a positive thing in line with Turkey's unique position in economic and cultural relations, even if this was not welcomed. "Turkey has a long history of relations with the EU," she said. "During this long period, much has changed in both Turkey and the EU. We're aware of the promises given to Turkey. Accession talks with Turkey are continuing and this is an open-ended process." She also underlined the importance of finding a solution to the Cyprus issue for further progress in accession talks, and urged Turkey to implement the Ankara Protocol by opening its ports and airports to Greek Cypriot vessels. Merkel said they agreed in principle on the opening of Turkish schools in Germany, adding that this should not allow Turkish nationals in her country to not learn German. She said they don't want to assimilate Turks but to help them integrate into German society. For his part, Erdogan said that they discussed ways to improve Turkish-German ties in various areas as well as Turkish citizens' adaptation to German society. "We shared ideas on the responsibility of both sides (Turkey and Germany) to make sure Turkish citizens can adapt to German society while preserving their own culture," he added. "We expect steps from Germany similar to those taken by Turkey in easing relations and playing a constructive role. I was deeply pleased to witness an identical approach from Ms. Merkel." Erdogan pointed out that Germany is one of Turkey's top trading partners, with a bilateral trade volume of over $20 billion. Erdogan also said that they also took up Turkey's EU membership process, saying, "During Germany's term presidency, three chapters were opened for negotiations. Everyone knows how Germany supported Turkey opening the environment chapter in its EU accession talks."