Germany and Turkey aim for four-way talks on Syria

At a joint press conference, Erdogan and Merkel both stress the need for stronger ties but admit ‘deep differences’.

Germany, Turkey, Russia and France will hold a meeting on the situation in Syria’s war-torn Idlib province in October.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday she discussed the plan in a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and they had agreed on the four-way talks.

The chancellor’s comments came amid a rare official visit by Erdogan to Germany with a busy agenda ranging from the war in Syria to the arrest of German citizens and Turkey’s currency crisis in the European Union candidate country. 

Berlin and Ankara, at odds over a variety of issues for years, recently toned down their rhetoric, signalling a new phase in diplomatic ties.

Speaking at a press conference after their meeting, Merkel and Erdogan stressed the importance of maintaining and enhancing Turkey-Germany relations. 

While Merkel said she believed the countries have “a common strategic interest in good relations”, on questions of how a democratic, free and open society looks, “there are also deep differences”.

Erdogan said he wanted to advance a “win-win scenario”, but added that Germany should respect Turkey’s judicial system. 

Jailed Germans

Merkel said she pushed for the release of Germans imprisoned in Turkey during the talks with Erdogan.

The detention of what Germany says are 35 of their citizens for what it considers political reasons has been one of the deepest irritants to relations between the two countries. 

Reporting from Berlin, Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull said a meeting with Erdogan is not something Merkel would have wanted a year ago. 

“Turkey is in an economic crisis, that’s something Germany is very worried about,” he said. 

“And there are other issues – the migration crisis, Syria as well – that would really benefit from better relations between the two. So she had to grit her teeth a little bit.”

Barin Kayaoglu, an assistant professor at the American University of Iraq, said Erdogan’s desire to improve relations with Germany was tied to deteriorating relations between Turkey and the United States. 

“The past summer has been very tough on Ankara’s relations with the US,” he told Al Jazeera, adding that the problems had negatively affected the Turkish economy. 

“My reading of it is that Ankara is hoping to use its relations with the German-led EU to perhaps ease the meltdown that the Turkish lira suffered last summer and the continuing risks that face the Turkish economy.” 

Merkel and Erdogan are set to continue talks on Saturday. 

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies