Merkel kicks off visit to Turkey with Patriots unit

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel coming to Turkey with an agenda including Patriot missiles, Kurdish issue, Turkey’s EU accession and cultural activities

 German Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to pay a high-profile visit to Turkey with top German businessmen accompanying her on a tour covering three cities in two days in an attempt to further boost the strategic dialogue between the two partners.

Merkel, who last appeared in the Turkish capital in 2010, will arrive in Gaziantep on Feb. 24 before heading to Kahramanmaraş, where 300 German soldiers have been deployed along with two units of Patriot defense systems. Sparing her Feb. 24 late afternoon to cultural activities, Merkel will visit Cappadocia where she is also expected to meet Christians living in the area. Later she moved on to Ankara on Feb. 25 for official talks with President Abdullah Gül and Premier Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. She will also pay her respects to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk with a visit to his mausoleum, the Anıtkabir. Merkel will also attend the CEO Forum organized by the TÜSİAD of Turkey and BID of Germany.

Syria, bilateral ties to be discussed

Merkel’s visit comes after a series of high-level visits from Germany to Turkey, including the interior minister and his state secretary. According to German diplomatic sources, the visit shows how deep and comprehensive bilateral relations between the two nations are. Leader of the Social Democrat Party, Sigmar Gabriel will also pay a visit to Turkey next week to meet with Erdoğan and Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the Republican People’s Party.

Among the issues to be discussed between Erdoğan and Merkel are recent developments in Syria and other regional issues, all dimensions of bilateral ties, Turkey’s EU process as well as Turkey’s efforts to renew its constitution and solve the Kurdish question.

German authorities believe that solving the Kurdish question and disarming the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) will also have positive impacts in Germany as there are numerous PKK-affiliated associations creating propaganda and fundraising for the terror organization. “The PKK is a terror organization and all of its activities are illegal. However, there are so many other affiliations of the PKK operating under different names. It’s difficult to trace all of them. That’s why we say that this problem should be solved in Turkey,” the same source stated.

It remains unclear how exactly this issue will be raised during talks in Ankara, but sources say Merkel would prefer to voice her support on ongoing talks aimed at solving the matter peacefully as well as her support for the Turkish Parliament’s work to rewrite the Constitution.

Turkey’s EU accession process and talks for visa liberalization for Turkish citizens are also going to be on the agenda during the visit. Although France paved the way for the opening of one once-blocked chapter, Merkel is expected to recall that a bulk of chapters are still under the blockage of the EU Council because of Turkey’s non-implementation of the Ankara Protocol stipulating Turkey to open its ports and airports to Greek Cypriot vessels.

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