Merkel stresses common strategic interests with Turkey

By Ayhan Simsek

BERLIN (AA) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel Friday has vowed to enhance cooperation with Turkey in the areas of economy, energy and security, despite political differences between Berlin and Ankara on a number of issues.

Speaking at a joint news conference with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan following their meeting in Berlin, Merkel said it was “a common strategic interest” for Turkey and Germany to maintain good relations, and enhance their cooperation.

“It is in Germany’s interest to have an economically stable Turkey,” she stressed.

Merkel said German Economy and Energy Minister Peter Altmaier’s planned visit to Turkey next month would be an opportunity to further enhance cooperation between the two countries.

The German chancellor designated the refugee crisis and counterterrorism as key areas of cooperation between Ankara and Berlin, but acknowledged that differences remained on a number of political themes, press freedom and human rights issues.

She stressed that only through dialogue could the two governments find solutions to remaining problems and overcome their differences.

Merkel voiced respect for the decisions of Turkish courts, but made known concerns about the situation of several German citizens arrested in counterterrorism operations in Turkey.

Asked about Ankara’s expectations from Berlin towards taking stricter measures against terrorist groups targeting Turkey, Merkel said the interior ministries of the two countries would continue talks on this matter.

“With regards to the FETO organization, hints provided by Turkey are taken very serious by us,” Merkel said, referring to Fetullah Terrorist Organization which orchestrated the failed coup of July 15, 2016.

She underlined that Germany needed more information and evidence about the group to categorize it as a terrorist organization just as it did for the PKK terrorist group.

Germany’s reluctance to take serious measures against the PKK and FETO has long been a source of tension between the two countries.

Both groups use Germany, which is home to more than 3 million migrants from Turkey, as a platform for their propaganda fundraising and recruitment activities.

Relations between Ankara and Berlin have suffered setbacks in past years, but both sides have taken steps in recent months towards improving ties.

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