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German foreign minister praises Ankara as mediator with Iran

Germany's foreign minister has praised Turkey's role as mediator with Iran over its nuclear program. Guido Westerwelle arrived in the country after being quoted as saying that it wasn't ready for EU membership.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle

Westerwelle delivered a cautious 'no' to Turkish EU membership

German Foreign Minister Guide Westerwelle has held talks with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu in Istanbul. Following the talks, Westerwelle praised Ankara's role as a mediator in the standoff over Iran's nuclear program.

The two ministers also spoke about ongoing investigations into a raid by Israeli soldiers on an aid flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip in May, in which nine Turkish activists were killed.

Davutoglu called for support from the international community and especially from Germany in the affair. On the topic of Turkey's aspirations to EU membership, Westerwelle said that Turkey still needed to work towards meeting the criteria for accession and that accession negotiations were an "open-ended process".

Later on Wednesday, Westerwelle is to travel to Ankara where he is to meet with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

'Privileged partnership'

Turkish and German military uniforms

Germany is seeking improved security ties with Turkey

Westerwelle is expected to promote Germany's position, which stresses Europe's interest in closer ties with Turkey, while withholding full EU membership for the country of 72 million.

The German government advocates a so-called "privileged partnership" for Turkey that could enhance economic and security ties between Brussels and Ankara.

"If the question had to be decided today, Turkey would not be able to join and the European Union would not be able to incorporate (Turkey)," Westerwelle told the German mass-circulation newspaper Bild on Tuesday.

Nevertheless, he warned against generating the impression that the EU was not interested in its eastern neighbor, which has repeatedly voiced its frustration over its slow-moving application for EU membership.

"It is in our interest for Turkey to orientate itself towards Europe," Westerwelle said, adding that this was not only out of economic interests.

"The county can help us solve several conflicts - whether it be Afghanistan, Iran, Yemen or the Middle East," the minister stressed.

Europe divided

Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul

Turkish leadership wants to join the EU

Speaking in Ankara a day ahead of Westerwelle's visit, British Prime Minister David Cameron offered his support to Turkey's accession efforts, saying he was "angry" that the country's progress towards EU membership has been "frustrated."

"When I think about what Turkey has done to defend Europe as a NATO ally and what Turkey is doing now in Afghanistan alongside European allies, it makes me angry that your progress towards EU membership can be frustrated in the way it has been," Cameron said in a speech to Turkish businessmen in Ankara.

"I believe it's just wrong to say Turkey can guard the camp but not be allowed to sit inside the tent," added the British prime minister.

Author: Darren Mara, Andreas Illmer (dpa/AFP)
Editor: Chuck Penfold

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