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Merkel voices ‘great concern’ over Turkey ahead of visit

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel holds a press conference during an EU leaders summit with Turkey on migrants crisis in Brussels on March 7, 2016. European Union leaders will on March 7 back closing down the Balkans route used by most migrants to reach Europe, diplomats said, after at least 25 more people drowned trying to cross the Aegean Sea en route to Greece. The declaration drafted by EU ambassadors on March 6 will be announced at a summit in Brussels on March 7, set to also be attended by Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. / AFP / ALAIN JOCARD

German Chancellor Angela Merkel holds a press conference during an EU leaders summit with Turkey on migrants crisis in Brussels on March 7, 2016.<br />European Union leaders will on March 7 back closing down the Balkans route used by most migrants to reach Europe, diplomats said, after at least 25 more people drowned trying to cross the Aegean Sea en route to Greece. The declaration drafted by EU ambassadors on March 6 will be announced at a summit in Brussels on March 7, set to also be attended by Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. / AFP / ALAIN JOCARD

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said some political developments in Turkey were a source of “great concern” and pledged to address them during a visit to the country on Monday.

Merkel, in an interview published Sunday, said she was ready to discuss “all the important questions” with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan when they meet in Istanbul on the sidelines of a UN-backed summit on humanitarian relief work.

“Naturally some developments in Turkey are a source of great concern for us,” the German leader told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung at a time when Erdogan has been accused by Western critics of an increasingly authoritarian style.

She said a decision last week by the Turkish legislature to strip scores of lawmakers of their parliamentary immunity would have “serious consequences” for Kurdish politicians, a fact that filled her “with great concern”.

Merkel also said she regretted that “the process of rapprochement and reconciliation with the Kurds was aborted in the past year”.

While Berlin, like Ankara, viewed the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) as a terrorist organisation, she said, the Kurdish population must have an “equal place and a good future in Turkey”.

The European Union and Turkey struck an agreement in March to limit the flow of refugees into the EU, under which Turkey agreed to take back illegal migrants while getting aid for hosting refugees and gaining eased visa rules for the EU.

Merkel defended the controversial deal that her government spearheaded and rejected the notion that the 28-member bloc had made itself too dependent on Ankara.

“Of course, there are interdependencies — or you can simply call it the need to balance our interests,” Merkel told the newspaper.

She said that, despite such mutual dependencies, Germany was always ready to voice criticism on developments in a country, “whether in public or in private”.

The visa deal with the EU has been in jeopardy over Ankara’s reluctance to alter its counter-terror laws, a requirement of the agreement, prompting Erdogan to make a series of critical statements about the EU in recent weeks.

Merkel said that she was watching closely how Turkey was meeting its obligations under the agreement and said that “at the moment it fulfils them reliably, and of course I will speak about the state of affairs with the Turkish president”.


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