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High-level meetings

January 7, 2010

Germany's top diplomat, Guido Westerwelle, has arrived in Turkey at the beginning of a six-day trip that will also take in a number of Persian Gulf states. Ankara's bid to join the EU could be high on the agenda.

Guido Westerwelle
The trip will be Westerwelle's second to the regionImage: AP

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle touched down in Turkey late on Wednesday for high-level talks with officials in Ankara. The leader of Germany's junior coalition partners, the Free Democrats, will then travel to the Persian Gulf.

In Ankara, Turkish officials are expected to broach the topic of their country's efforts to join the European Union. In recent months, several Balkan states have seen progress in their EU membership applications, while Turkey continues to experience delays in its own accession to the 27-nation bloc.

Westerwelle has praised Ankara for reforms it has made in its attempt to satisfy certain EU membership criteria but also reminded the country of 74 million that further progress was necessary.

Germany's Christian Social Union, the sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, has proposed a "privileged partnership" for Turkey in an attempt to withhold full membership from the majority Muslim nation.

In his two days in Turkey, Westerwelle is to meet with Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as well as Turkish Foreign Ministry officials.

On Friday, Westerwelle will move on to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, where he will be accompanied by a contingent of German business leaders eager to press their case for increased financial ties with the Gulf states.

The Middle East conflict is also expected to be raised during the foreign minister's talks, as are recent developments in Iran and Yemen.

The six-day trip will be Westerwelle's second to the region since assuming the role of foreign minister in October. In November, he led a delegation to Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Editor: Nancy Isenson