Following its frosty relations with the U.S., Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seriously looking to mend fences with its allies and this time around, he is in Germany for a peace meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The visit on Thursday is Erdogan’s first formal journey to Germany, aimed at reducing tensions between the two NATO allies at a time when Turkey’s economic troubles are causing growing concerns and Europe needs Ankara’s support in reducing the flow of migrants.
Germany is home to more than 3 million people with Turkish roots, but the increasingly authoritarian leader is viewed with suspicion across the political spectrum in Germany, which has had difficult relations with Ankara in recent years.
It escalated in the past year to the point where Erdogan called Germany’s mainstream parties “enemies of Turkey” and accused officials in Berlin of acting like Nazis, prompting Chancellor Angela Merkel to condemn the Turkish president’s words.
At the same time, the two countries recognise mutual strategic interests and the two leaders appeared prepared to bury the hatchet ahead of the trip, which runs until Saturday.
“Turkey is an important partner for us, and it is also an important partner for Europe,” Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said.
“We have a fundamental interest in an economically and politically stable Turkey, and of course in a Turkey in which democracy is practiced,” Seibert added. He said that talks with Erdogan will address both “common interests” and difficult issues.
In an opinion piece in Thursday’s FAZ newspaper, Erdogan said it was time to “set aside our differences of opinion and concentrate on our joint interests.”
“Turkey’s hope is to develop relations with Germany and other nations as equals on the basis of mutual respect,” he wrote.