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Turkey calls for German aid in Syrian refugee crisis

During talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for German help with its Syrian refugee crisis. The two leaders also discussed Turkey’s accession to the EU.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) address a press conference after meeting for talks at the chancellery in Berlin on October 31, 2012. The talks were expected to focus on the crisis in Syria. AFP PHOTO / JOHN MACDOUGALL (Photo credit should read JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)

NATO PK Merkel und Erdogan in Berlin

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan asked Wednesday for German help in grappling with a flood of Syrian refugees, calling the civil war across the border a "catastrophe."

Erdogan told reporters after talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel that Turkey could not manage the influx on its own.

"We absolutely need the support and assistance of Germany," he said. "At a time when we're searching for global peace, this is of course a catastrophe and we have to stop it."

Merkel acknowledged the situation in Syria had become "a real burden" for Turkey and offered "humanitarian aid" to help cope with the tens of thousands fleeing the civil war.

"We feel responsible for the security of Turkey," Merkel said of Germany's NATO partner. She praised what she called Turkey's "restraint" in response to Turkish citizens killed by Syrian fire.

Erdogan's government, a one-time ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, fell out with Damascus after its deadly crackdown on popular dissent that erupted 19 months ago.

Turkeyhas since sheltered more than 105,000 refugees fleeing the conflict, as well as the exiled Syrian opposition's military and political leadership.

Meanwhile Turkey has systematically retaliated against cross-border shelling since Syrian fire killed five Turks on October 3.

‘Sincere' EU talks

Chancellor Merkel told Prime Minister Erdogan that Germany is sincere about pushing forward talks on Turkey's European Union membership.

Despite her own political party's opposition to full EU membership - a position she noted had been agreed upon by her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party before she became chancellor, Merkel said she was "open" to discussions on Turkey joining the 27-member bloc.

Erdogan, for his part, confirmed his view that the decision to accept divided Cyprus as an EU member continued to represent a major point of contention in the accession talks, which have been on ice for more than two years.

"Such a state doesn't exist. We recognize North Cyprus as a state though others perhaps don't," Erdogan said. "It was a mistake that South Cyprus was accepted into the EU ... and the mistake keeps growing."

The island is divided between a mainly Turkish north, where Turkish troops are in place, and a mainly ethnic Greek south.

hc/mz (AFP, dpa, Reuters)