German Chancellor Angela Merkel met Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Hanover and made their peace after the Turkish leader made critical comments about German efforts in regard to Turkey's EU accession.
Merkel understood Erdogan's frustrations but emphasized the EU's stance on accession
Conciliation and mutual respect was the order of the day when German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met on Sunday before opening the Hanover Trade Fair where Turkey is this year's guest nation.
The tone for the meeting had been soured prior to Erdogan's arrival after the Turkish premier reproached Germany for failing to do enough to advance Turkey's troubled bid to join the EU in an interview published German news magazine Der Spiegel.
However, Erdogan struck a conciliatory note at the press conference after holding talks with Merkel.
Erdogan believes Turkey would be an asset to the EU
"One cannot attack a lady," he said. "We are on a long, narrow road and we have to be patient. But our two countries are friends."
Erdogan, however, added that he felt the criticism he had voiced was "legitimate."
In the magazine interview, the Turkish PM was quoted as saying: "Seriously, I expected more from Germany. We would like a clear idea of a date, a roadmap and a calendar for negotiations. The Europeans could thereby show our people that they are serious."
He also suggested 2014 or 2015 as a possible date for Turkish accession, calling on the EU to decide whether it was a true "family of different cultures or a Christian club."
Turkish PM makes peace and case for membership
But after discussions with the German chancellor, Erdogan moderated his criticism, saying there had been a "boost" to the talks under the German presidency.
Thousands protested in Turkey at the notion that Erdogan run for the country's presidency
Erdogan also reiterated his belief that Turkey had enormous potential and that his country wanted to enter the EU not as a burden but to help carry the burden, noting that Turkey had undergone considerable reforms.
"Every new country in the EU means new markets and new investment opportunities," he said. "The Turkish economy has become more open and more liberal."
Merkel seemed to understand Erdogan's frustrations, saying the European Union could open two more chapters of membership talks with Turkey by July but reiterated the EU's stance with Turkey over the Cyprus dispute.
Merkel offers progress with Cyprus caveat
"Under the German presidency of the EU, two more chapters could probably be opened if things go well," said Merkel. "We are looking ahead but the outcome of this process remains open," she said, adding that it is "important that Turkey normalizes ties with Cyprus."
Merkel wants the Cyprus dispute solved
The European Union relaunched membership talks with Turkey at the end of March after a long hiatus caused by Ankara's refusal to respect its trade obligations to Cyprus under a customs agreement with the EU.
Turkey has refused to open its ports and airports to Greek Cypriot traffic until the EU lives up to its pledge to end the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot state in the north of the Mediterranean island, which is recognized only by Ankara.
Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats oppose Turkish membership of the EU and would prefer instead that the secular Islamic nation become a "privileged partner" of the 27-member bloc. But she has agreed to support the EU's ongoing accession negotiations with Ankara as part of her government's coalition agreement with the center-left Social Democrats.
The Social Democrats are in favor of Turkey joining the EU, a stance reiterated by statements made by Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Sunday.
"Security and stability would be raised in Europe if Turkey is involved," he said, adding that the reform process in Turkey needed to continue and become better integrated if its bid for membership was to be successful.