Germany’s Westerwelle says Turkey’s direction is Europe

Germany reiterated its position on Wednesday that it wants Turkey to be bound to Europe but added that it is not yet ready for EU membership. “Turkey's direction is Europe. We place great importance on deepening mutual ties and binding Turkey to Europe,” German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told a joint news conference after breakfast with his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoğlu, in İstanbul.

Westerwelle said this position has a strategic importance and that Turkey's leaning toward the EU is not only in the interests of Germany but also those of the EU, as he was asked about his previous remarks on Turkey's EU membership path appeared in the Bild daily the day before his visit to Turkey.

“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 on Tuesday.

“We have agreed on an open-ended process,” the German foreign minister said, adding that this is not an automatic process. Westerwelle also called Turkey to objectively meet the criteria in membership negotiations, underlining that Turkey needs to live up to its obligations and responsibilities. “This is both Germany’s and the EU’s important principle,” Westerwelle noted.

Explaining that Germany largely contributed to opening the food and environment chapter, Westerwelle said what needs to be done at this point for Turkey and the EU is to work to live up to their obligations. Westerwelle said Turkey’s EU membership is not being decided on today and that many chapters remain untouched. “It is important now to objectively discuss all topics without ill intention.”

Davutoğlu and Westerwelle also discussed an EU visa exemption deal during breakfast. Davutoğlu told reporters that Turkey has closely been following the EU’s recent efforts in visa exemptions with praise but said leaving Turkey outside of these efforts has no legitimate basis.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and his German counterpart, Guido Westerwelle, chat on a boat as they tour the Bosporus in İstanbul on Wednesday. In the background is the Ottoman-era Ortaköy Mecidiye Mosque.

Speaking on the Cyprus problem, Davutoğlu said he told his German counterpart that it is necessary to approach both sides of the island equally for an urgent solution of the protracted conflict and that it will be helpful to get in contact with Turkish Cyprus, also. He said British and German support is important for progress in the Cyprus dispute.
Iran, cooperation against terrorism
Noting that he also discussed Turkey’s fight against terrorism with his German counterpart, Davutoğlu said the most significant financial and logistic resources of terrorism -- and they are intractable -- are unfortunately clustered in Europe. “We expect more active, day-to-day operational cooperation against terrorism from our European friends in general, and Germany in particular,” Davutoğlu said.

Recalling that the German foreign minister is scheduled to visit to Turkey in September, Davutoğlu said they have agreed on technical work until then. He added that Westerwelle had confirmed they stand by Turkey in its fight against terrorism. “We will all work together on this -- not only in the fight against terrorism, but also in the fight against illegal criminal groups and drug trafficking,” Davutoğlu said.

Westerwelle said Germany does not accept any type of terrorist activity and shares Turkey’s sorrow over its losses in recent years. “We are determined to jointly fight against terrorist activity and we will never support such activity,” Westerwelle noted.

Speaking at the news conference, Davutoğlu said the two foreign ministers had also discussed regional affairs, including Iran’s nuclear imbroglio. Recalling that Turkey, Iran and Brazil had held a three-way meeting on Sunday in İstanbul and that Iran had sent a letter to the Vienna Group on Monday, Davutoğlu said the EU had on the same day decided to push for new sanctions on Iran. The Turkish foreign minister said the environment is very suitable for diplomacy and that it is time to resort to it and to common sense.

Stressing that Turkey is working to avert an escalating of tension in the region, Davutoğlu said there is no contradiction in the visions of Turkey and the EU. “We make diplomacy work together,” Davutoğlu said. The Turkish foreign minister said he thinks some signals Tehran sent to the West constitute an important element for a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear dispute. “We attach importance to continuing this diplomatic atmosphere,” Davutoğlu said, adding that Turkey believes Iran and the Vienna Group must immediately start technical negotiations. Once there is progress in technical talks, Davutoğlu said, mutual trust will be established.

Westerwelle said Germany welcomes Turkish and Brazilian efforts to establish dialogue with Iran. Westerwelle said Iran having nuclear weapons was an unacceptable situation and that it was a regional danger.

Noting that Germany appreciates the success Turkey has achieved in recent years, Westerwelle said the two countries had common interests as allies. He added that 3.5 million Turks live in Germany and that more than 4 million Turks visit Germany a year, showing the sound basis of the relations between the two countries.

Westerwelle said during his meeting with Davutoğlu that they had also discussed the establishment of a Turkish-German university in İstanbul.

Answering a question on Israel’s raid on an aid flotilla earlier this year, Davutoğlu said Turkey expects solidarity from Germany on this matter. Regarding the incidents in Gaza, Westerwelle said they should be clarified on the international level and that the EU was of the same opinion.
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