German FM Westerealle pledges support for Turkey'e EU bid
Diverging from the stance of his country's top leader, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle yesterday pledged his full support to Turkey's EU accession bid. Underscoring that Turkey's "direction is toward Europe," Westerwelle told a joint press conference alongside his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu that developing relations with Turkey and its joining the European Union are of key importance to Germany. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has repeatedly offered "privileged partnership" to Turkey in lieu of full EU membership. The two top diplomats held their press conference following a breakfast meeting at Istanbul's Ciragan Palace. Davutoglu said the German foreign minister had confirmed his country's support for Turkey's EU accession bid, adding that he had told Westerwelle during the meeting about Turkey's initiatives regarding visa procedures. "I also told him that we appreciated the EU's recent efforts on the liberalization of visas, but Turkey being excluded from these efforts lacks any legitimate basis," Davutoglu said. He said he told Westerwelle that the two parties on Cyprus should be treated equally in order to attain a lasting solution for the island. "I also said we place great importance on Britain's and Germany's support on the matter for progress on the issue," he added. Saying that Germany appreciates the success Turkey has shown in recent years, Westerwelle said the two countries have common interests as allies and that the strategic dialogue between them is very important. He added that 3.5 million Turks are living in Germany and more than 4 million Turks visit there every year, numbers he said show the sound basis of relations between the two countries. Germany welcomes the efforts of Turkey and Brazil to establish dialogue with Iran, he said. On Israel's deadly May 31 raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, Westerwelle said this incident should be probed at the international level, adding that the EU shares this stance. Asked about the terrorist PKK, Westerwelle said Germany will not accept any form of terrorist activity. "We share the sorrow of Turkey" over recent deaths at the hands of PKK terrorists, he said. "We are determined to work together against terror. No one should expect us to accept or tolerate terror acts."