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Germany

Chancellor-Designate Merkel to Visit Turkey

Incoming German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday said she had accepted an invitation to visit Turkey in the first half of next year, and expressed hope the two countries would enjoy strong ties.

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Turkey's Foreign Minister Gül was welcomed by Merkel on Friday

Merkel made the announcement after meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül, who conveyed the invitation on behalf of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Berlin

She said she would like to see "good and intensive cooperation" between Germany and Turkey and stressed that they enjoyed a "common bond" because both were members of NATO.

Observers have been watching carefully how Merkel will handle her first diplomatic encounters with Turkey. Her Christian Democrats have opposed Turkey's bid to join the European Union, calling instead for a "privileged partnership" with the predominantly Muslim nation which started accession talks on Oct. 4.

That stance angered Germany's three million-strong Turkish community and raised concerns about Berlin's future relations with Ankara.

Differences over Turkey prompt compromise

EU-Gipfel in Brüssel - Flaggen

The CDU and SPD have different views on Turkey joining the EU

But the Christian Democrats and their coalition partners, the Social Democrats -- who strongly back Turkey's bid for membership -- reached a compromise on the issue last week. The parties said they recognized the EU's stance that Turkey "will have no prior guarantees about the outcome" of the accession talks which are expected to last up to 15 years.

The term "privileged partnership" has been dropped in favor of "privileged relationship," but the government manifesto stresses this would only be the case if Turkey fails to meet the criteria for full membership.

Gül was also scheduled to meet with outgoing German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and with his successor Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Friday.

Ankara waits to see if relations remain warm

Gerhard Schröder Türkei-Besuch Bundeskanzler mit dem türkischen Premierminister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in der Hauptstadt Ankara EU-Beitritt

Erdogan and Schröder enjoyed a warm relationship

Ankara enjoyed warm relations with outgoing Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who visited Erdogan in the wake of the German elections in one of a handful of trips abroad to say farewell to fellow leaders.

Schröder has repeatedly said Turkey's bid to join the EU will be successful and worked to ensure harmonious ties between Germans and Turkish immigrants. He has argued along with Fischer that integrating the populous, relatively poor nation into Europe would prove vital towards ensuring the region's safety in a climate of growing Islamic extremism.

Gül was also to attend a conference organized by a foundation that promotes links between business and politics.

Merkel is due to be voted in by parliament next Tuesday, becoming the first woman chancellor in German history.

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