Merkel, Erdogan try to mend ties after genocide vote

Merkel, Erdogan try to mend ties after genocide vote

German Chancellor Merkel and Turkish President Erdogan have met on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Poland. The leaders, however, made little ground resolving the disputes that divide them after German Parliament infuriated Ankara by branding the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces a genocide.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the meeting Saturday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “constructive,” adding that she discussed “all outstanding issues” with the Turkish leader.

“The atmosphere was constructive… and very businesslike in an effort to solve the existing conflicts,” Merkel told reporters in a news conference on Saturday.

The chancellor, however, admitted the disagreements between the two countries would take some time to be resolved.

“Differences don’t just disappear after such a discussion,” she added. “But I believe it was important that we talked them through.”

Ties between Berlin and Ankara deteriorated after the German parliament in early June passed aresolution declaring that a 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces was genocide.

Merkel did, however, announce after the passing of the resolution that the Bundestag decision to designate the Ottoman killings of Christian Armenians as genocide did not detract from Germany’s “amicable and strategic” relationship with Turkey.

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After the Bundestag vote, Turkish officials blocked German politicians from visiting the military base Incirlik, which the German army uses as a base for its Tornado reconnaissance jets being used in the fight against the “Islamic State.”

A visit by Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen last week to Incirlik and Ankara was unsuccessful at getting the ban lifted. Despite the tensions, defense experts from all German political parties in parliament decided on Wednesday that they would visit Incirlik, where some 240 German soldiers are based, in September.

Erdogan said the air base was not a place for “public shows and marketing” but added that Turkey would consider the request in the light of German statements on relations, an anonymous source told Reuters news agency.

Merkel and Erdogan were participating in a NATO summit in Warsaw, which focused on competition with Russia and also on the future of the Western alliance’s troops in Afghanistan. The leaders’ last meeting was six weeks ago in Istanbul.