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Germany

Schröder Backs Turkey's EU Bid

With assurances the German government will support his country's candidacy for European Union membership, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip winds down a successful trip to Germany.

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Turkey's Erdogan in Berlin: Stumping for an EU future.

Turkey got a huge push this week in its effort to join the European Union. During his three-day visit to Berlin, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip received an assurance from German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder that his country would back Ankara's future membership.

"The expectations that have arisen [in Turkey] cannot and may not be disappointed," Schröder said after meeting with Erdogan on Tuesday, referring to the country's efforts to join the EU. Meanwhile, Schröder dismissed opposition politicians who have rejected the possibility of Turkey's accession to the EU as "cheap polemics."

Wolfgang Bosbach, deputy leader of the parliamentary group of the conservative Christian Democratic Union and Christian Social Union said Tuesday that Turkey's admission could be "political suicide," alledging that Turkey's membership would "overtax" the EU's capacity for integration and hinder economic growth within the bloc.

No "Christian club"

Erdogan warned that discussions of future Turkish EU membership shouldn't spark domestic political battles in Germany. He said was "sad that some circles in Germany have a skewed image of Turkey." And he stressed on Wednesday that Turkey's route into the EU, which has included introducing a slew of reforms regarding basic and human rights, was an "irrevocable process."

The EU is not a "Christian club," but rather a "political community of values," Erdogan stressed. "The values that Turkey has committed itself to are the values that form the basis of the western democracies," the prime minister said. He said Europe would risk division if Turkey were excluded from the EU.

Previously Erdogan had called on Turks in Germany -- at 2 million, the country's largest minority -- to apply for German citizenship in order to make integration easier.

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German Leopard 2 tanks

Erdogan also called for Germany to put an end to limitations on arms exports to Turkey, a fellow member of NATO, in an interview with the Handelsblatt newspaper. He said the measures, which have stopped Berlin from supplying Turkey with battle tanks, should be suspended in view of Turkey's reforms and possible accession to the EU.

Human rights issues

In their meeting on Tuesday, Erdogan and Schröder confirmed their resolution to have radical Islamic fundamentalist leader Metin Kaplan, known as the "Caliph of Cologne," extradited to Turkey. A Cologne court had rejected an application to deport the Turkish national, who has been jailed on charges of inciting murder, because their was no guarantee he would receive a fair trial there and not be tortured.

Erdogan planned to meet with Christian Democratic Party chairwoman Angela Merkel on Wednesday afternoon before his departure from Berlin to push the Turkish case for EU entry with the skeptical political opposition. He was also expected to meet with representatives from human rights organizations in Berlin. Amnesty International and numerous other human rights groups have repeatedly accused Turkey of systematic violations of human rights despite recent changes to Turkish federal laws.

In a speech on Wednesday Erdogan said his government was in favor of prohibiting torture. "We want to bring democracy in our country to its highest level," he said.

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