Germany, Turkey take small steps toward friendlier ties
German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel, right, and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu smile prior to a statement in Goslar, Germany, Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018. The German and Turkish foreign ministers are taking small steps toward restoring friendlier relations after more than a year of tension between their countries. But they are making clear that differences remain. (Swen Pfoertner/dpa via AP) (Associated Press) January 6
BERLIN â" The German and Turkish foreign ministers took small steps Saturday toward restoring friendlier relations after more than a year of tension between their countries, but they made clear that significant differences remain.
Germanyâs Sigmar Gabriel welcomed Turkeyâs Mevlut Cavusoglu to h is hometown of Goslar as the Turkish leadership is making a broader effort to improve their countryâs strained relationship with Europe. On Friday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited France.
Turkish-European ties worsened last year amid mass arrests and firings by authorities following a July 2016 coup attempt. Relations deteriorated further after authorities in some countries â" including local officials in Germany â" prevented Turkish ministers from holding rallies with expatriate Turks to promote a referendum on expanding the presidentâs powers.
A particular irritant in relations between Ankara and Berlin has been Turkeyâs jailing of several German or German-Turkish nationals, including journalist Deniz Yucel, over terror-related allegations. Seven are currently being held for what Berlin considers political reasons.
Gabriel said there has been some progress lately, pointing to the release of some other Germans.
He said the two mini sters agreed to recommend that a joint German-Turkish economic commission that hasnât met recently reconvene. They also want to revive a âstrategic dialogueâ between their ministries.
âWe canât expect to agree on every question straight away. There are differences of opinion, but we are well-advised to continue our discussion openly and with mutual respect,â Gabriel told reporters, noting that Germany and Turkey are both NATO members.
Cavusoglu stressed the importance of âsincere cooperationâ and acknowledged differences over Turkeyâs stalled bid to join the European Union.
Despite those differences, he said, âWe need to overcome issues such as the renewal of the customs union agreement that is of benefit to both sides.â
Germany has made clear that journalist Yucelâs detention is an obstacle to improved ties. The correspondent for German daily Die Welt has been in custody for nearly 11 months.
Gabriel said âyou can be sur eâ the case came up during Saturdayâs discussions. Cavusoglu did not mention it at a public appearance with his German counterpart.
Zeynep Bilginsoy in Istanbul contributed to this report.
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