Turkish, German leaders join in mutual pledges for minorities
At a joint news conference yesterday with his visiting German counterpart Christian Wulff, President Abdullah Gul said he is also the leader of the country's non-Muslim communities. "We have non-Muslim citizens, we have Christian and Jewish citizens," said Gul. "I am also their president," he added, echoing Wulff's earlier assertion that that "Islam is now a part of Germany." Despite strong economic and social ties with Germany, Wulff's five-day trip to Turkey is the first presidential visit in a decade. It comes amid rising debate in Germany over integration, in which Wulff has taken a conciliatory stance. Yesterday he shared successful integration stories with Gul, such as that of Aygul Ozkan, Lower Saxony's new minister for social affairs. "Seeing her success has encouraged our ethnic Turkish citizens, who believe they will be taken seriously. I am also their president," said Wulff. Gul urged that Germany not respond to rising immigration by tightening its visa policy. On Turkey's European Union bid, Wulff echoed Berlin's line that the process is "open-ended" but also that the principle of "pacta sunt servanda" (agreements must be kept) should be observed. Later addressing Parliament, Wulff spoke on Turkish-German economic ties, saying that many German companies are operating in Turkey and helping its economic dynamism. On the Cyprus dispute, he said resolution of the decades-long impasse would bring stability to the eastern Mediterranean, urging, "This problem, this knot should be untied." On Turkish-Armenian normalization, Wulff said Germany supports this process, encouraging an "open border" in the common future with Armenia. On the Middle East, Wulff said Germany favors a Palestinian state living side by side with Israel, stressing that Turkey has a role to play in peace negotiations between the two parties. The president said German citizens of Turkish descent are a part of Germany, adding that he is the president of all, including Turkish-Germans, and urged them to actively participate in German society. Wulff stressed that successful integration is possible through open dialogue within the rules of German society.