Germany says to further friendship with Turkey amid immigration debate

08:36, October 20, 2010      

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German President Christian Wulff said Tuesday his country wants to build closer friendship with Turkey while defending his recent remarks on Muslim immigrants that sparked criticism in Germany.

Germany and Turkey are eager to further boost their existing friendly relations, Wulff told a joint press conference with Turkish President Abdullah Gul here.

Commenting on his earlier statement that "I am also the president of Muslims in Germany," Wulff said "we should accept diversity." His words came as a debate on immigration in Germany heated up after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany's attempt to create a multi-cultural society had failed.

Germany is home to about 4 million Muslims, among whom 2.5 million are Turks.

Besides, Wulff said Germany and Turkey will lay the foundation for a new Turkish-German university in the Turkish city of Istanbul and sign a partnership agreement between German state of Hessen and Turkish province of Bursa.

Talking about Turkey's accession talks with the European Union (EU), he said "there are details to be discussed in terms of timing but in general, it is Turkey's right that the negotiations should take place fairly."

Turkey became an EU candidate country in December 1999 and launched accession talks with the EU in October 2005, but has only opened 13 chapters out of the 35 necessary to be negotiated before entering EU.

Merkel has argued Turkey should be granted a "privileged partnership" with the EU instead of full membership.

Gul, for his part, welcomed Wulff's remarks on Muslims living in Germany, saying the integration of Turks into German society should not be used as a political tool.

"We have our own Christian, Jewish citizens (in Turkey). And I am their president, too. They are our citizens and there can't be any discrimination between us," he said.

Gul called for more efforts to find a solution to the issue, suggesting immigrants be encouraged to better learn local language.

Wulff, the first German president to visit Turkey for the last decade, arrived here on Monday for a four-day tour.

Source: Xinhua


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