President Abdullah Gül says Turkey no longer trusts Benjamin Netanyahus government. Recent relations between Ankara and Jerusalem have gone from bad to worse, as Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador because of his government's refusal to apologize for the death of nine Turkish activists on the Gaza aid ship Mavi Marmara in May 2010.
In an exclusive interview with Süddeutsche Zeitung, Gül also revealed that there had been several rounds of secret talks between Ankara and Jerusalem to try and settle the issue. But, he said, every time some sort of agreement looked as if it might be reached, Israel switched positions. Gül stressed that Turkey has no problem with the Israeli people, only with the government.
With regard to the violence in Syria, Gül stated that Turkey had given up hope that President Bashar al-Assad would tackle reforms. The days of the authoritarian regime are numbered, he added, and it pained him that so many people in Syria were killed. Concerning the successful overthrows in the Arab world and in North Africa, Gül said: "We enthusiastically support these revolutions. The president said that Turkeys democratic standards could also serve as a source of inspiration for states in transition.
Making Europe a front runner again
Gül gave assurances that Turkey, despite its commitment to the Middle Eastern countries in transition, wished now as before to become an EU member. He hoped that more Europeans would see that "Turkey would not be a burden on the Union." On the contrary: with its strong economy, Turkey could help make "Europe a front runner again." Gül stressed that Turkey "could offer a positive contribution."
Gül expressed disquiet at the serious crisis in neighboring Greece. Turkish tourists visiting Greece were helping Greeces economy, and Turkey was willing to do more to help Greece, Gül said.
On his state visit to Germany, which begins Sunday, Gül said that he didnt want to limit his visit to Berlin -- visits to high tech companies in Baden-Württemberg have also been planned. "When we look at Europe today," said Gül, "we see that there are actually only two upward-striving countries: Germany and Turkey." The two countries should thus work closely together in research, technology and economically in the future, he said.
"No longer appropriate"
Gül was critical of the fact that Turks visiting Germany still need a visa, while Germans traveling to Turkey do not. "In view of close ties between our countries, thats no longer appropriate," he said. A number of Balkan countries had recently secured EU visa waivers, he pointed out.
According to the Turkish president, if Germany wants to hold on to its strong economy and prosperity it has to continue to open up. "Its a fact that the population in Germany is shrinking." Meanwhile, increasing numbers of young Turks whove received good educations in Germany are returning to the country of their parents and grandparents -- and that trend could continue. The visa issue was damaging the economies of both countries, Gül said.
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