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German, Turkish ministers meet amid tensions

June 22, 2013

BERLIN (AP) — The German and Turkish foreign ministers met Saturday in an effort to defuse diplomatic tensions over Turkey’s EU membership bid and a crackdown on demonstrations in the country.

Germany’s Foreign Ministry said Guido Westerwelle met his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu on the sidelines of a multinational meeting in Qatar concerning Syria.

The atmosphere was “constructive and friendly” and the ministers discussed matters including Turkey’s relations with the European Union “in the spirit of partners and friends,” a ministry statement said. It didn’t elaborate on the substance of their discussion.

On Friday, Germany summoned Turkey’s ambassador over a Turkish minister’s suggestion that Chancellor Angela Merkel criticized the country’s crackdown on protesters for domestic political gain. Turkey then said it was summoning Germany’s ambassador.

Germany and the Netherlands this week blocked a decision to open a new chapter in Turkey’s EU membership talks. While Merkel has long been skeptical about Turkey’s EU ambitions, her coalition government supports continuing the talks and says it is not questioning the accession process.

The demonstrations in Turkey were sparked by a police crackdown on environmental activists in Istanbul May 31, but protesters also criticized what some regard as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s authoritarian style of leadership.

Germany has a large ethnic Turkish community. In the German city of Cologne, thousands of people took part in a demonstration Saturday organized by the Alevi Muslim community, who have long faced discrimination in Turkey.

Participants held placards with slogans including “Erdogan, the wolf in sheep’s clothing” and “a fascist is governing in Ankara,” Germany news agency dpa said, reporting that between 30,000 and 40,000 people took part.

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