Gul to Merkel: "Turkey is already a privileged partner for the EU"
President Abdullah Gul yesterday received German Chancellor Angela Merkel, on an official visit, and her accompanying delegation at the Cankaya Presidential Palace in Ankara. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Chief Negotiator for EU Talks Egemen Bagis, and German State Minister for Migration, Refugees and Integration Maria Boehmer were also in attendance. During the meeting, Gul reportedly urged Merkel to understand Turkey's firm rejection of a "privileged partnership" proposal in lieu of its full EU membership bid. "Turkey's relations with the EU are already at the level of a privileged partnership," he said. "Our only goal in accession talks with the EU is full membership. Statements that hinder this process should be avoided." Gul called Turkey's EU accession process a full-fledged transformation process, saying that Turkey is striving to raise its standards to the highest level in this process. Asking for continued German support for Turkey's EU membership bid, Gul urged Merkel avoid discouraging statements. Dismissing unilateral pressure on Turkey over the Cyprus issue, Gul also urged Merkel to put more pressure on the Greek Cypriot administration to find a just and lasting solution to the issue. Gul and Merkel also discussed the integration problems of Turks living in Germany. Stating that Germany's Turkish population has made great progress in better integrating themselves into German society in recent years, Gul said they have made remarkable contributions to their host country. Merkel joined Gul in underlining these contributions. Reiterating her well-known stance on Turkey's EU accession bid, Merkel called the EU accession process "open ended" and that at the end of it Turkey could become a more "privileged partner" for the EU. Merkel yesterday also attended a dinner hosted in her honor by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Speaking at the dinner, Erdogan called for the removal of visa requirements between Turkey and Germany, while Merkel responded that the countries could work together towards that end.