German FM Westerwelle: We have a great interest in Turkey turning towards Europe
Turkey is not yet ready to join the European Union, but it is essential that it is "on Europe's side," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle was quoted as saying yesterday, just before arriving in Istanbul for an official visit. "If the question had to be decided today, Turkey would not be ready for membership and the EU would not be ready to absorb it," Westerwelle told Bild daily. "But we have a big interest in Turkey turning in Europe's direction. I want a Turkey that is on Europe's side. Not just for economic reasons. The country can also provide very constructive help in resolving many conflicts, whether it be Afghanistan, Iran, Yemen or the Middle East." Asked about problems with the integration of Turks into German society, Westerwelle cited Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's call for Turks in Germany to learn German to better integrate into their host country. "I support this call. The key factor for (Turks) to become successful in our society is integration and learning German." Westerwelle yesterday had talks with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu in Istanbul, and is also expected to meet with Erdogan today. The Foreign Ministry said the talks would focus on bilateral relations as well as Turkey's EU membership process, the dispute over Cyprus, and regional issues, apparently in reference to Iran. Westerwelle's visit, it said, confirms both countries' willingness to further strengthen their extensive cooperation. Westerwelle, leader of Germany's junior coalition partner liberal Free Democrats (FDP), has a more positive stance towards Turkish membership and is credited with softening Chancellor Angela Merkel's opposition to Turkey's EU membership.