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Europe

Turkish FM Praises German Support Before Berlin Visit

Abdullah Gul, Turkey's foreign minister, thanked and praised Germany for its support in Turkey's EU membership efforts on Sunday. Gul is due in Berlin for talks on Monday.

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Abdullah Gul arrives in Germany on Monday for talks and to offer thanks

Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul on Sunday praised Germany as a staunch supporter of Turkey's efforts to join the European Union and expressed confidence that Berlin would help in overcoming French objections to his country's accession bid.

"Germany is among the countries who are the biggest supporters of Turkey," Gul told reporters. "Naturally this issue is being discussed between Germany and France as well, and Germany is helping Turkey."

The minister was speaking before flying to Berlin for meetings with German leaders and non-governmental organizations on Monday and Tuesday. In Berlin Gul will also meet with Christian Democrat opposition leader Angela Merkel, who is advocating a "privileged relationship" with Turkey rather than full EU membership.

Ankara watches France with understanding

Gul said that Ankara was watching with understanding the debate in France over whether the vast Muslim nation should be allowed into the EU, but warned: "Turkey should not be subjected to injustices. It is not possible for us to accept that."

Gul's trip to Germany is the first in a series of visits that Turkish leaders will make to European capitals to drum up support for their country in the run-up to a crucial December 17 decision by EU leaders on whether to start accession talks with Turkey.

Commission ruling causes divisions

The European Commission, the EU's executive branch, said earlier this month that Turkey had fulfilled the required democracy norms and recommended the start of talks.

While Germany's centre-left government is united in its support for Turkey, the French leadership is split and public opinion is largely hostile.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will discuss the issue with German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and French President Jacques Chirac in three-way talks in Berlin on October 26.

Fischer to hear Turkish concerns

Joschka Fischer und Abdullah Gül in Ankara

Abdullah Gul and Joschka Fischer.

Gul said that in his meeting with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer he would also raise Turkish concerns over several points in the Commission report which Ankara considers discriminatory.

The Commission said the start of accession talks with Turkey would not amount to a guarantee that it would one day join the EU and mentioned the possibility of imposing permanent safeguards against the free movement of Turkish nationals in the bloc.

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