In a farewell visit, outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her country will continue to maintain a working relationship with Turkey, stressed cooperation on migration and other issues, and defended Berlin’s diplomatic efforts at upholding human rights.
“The relationship between Turkey and Germany, with its positive and negative sides, will go on,” Merkel told reporters at a joint news conference with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the steps of Istanbul’s Dolmabache Palace. “Everybody knows the security and independence of both our countries depends on each other.”
Erdogan said Turkey would “always remember the good faith and the contribution” Merkel made towards maintaining ties with Turkey.
“From prevention of irregular migration from Syria, to dispatching humanitarian aid to northern Syria, on many topics Merkel did not abstain from taking the initiative and taking responsibility,” Erdogan said.
Merkel’s party narrowly lost elections in Germany last month, and a new government will consist of a coalition that will likely be more centre-left, and likely more critical of Ankara than before.
Merkel, who led Germany for 16 years, and Erdogan, who has led Turkey for 19 years, are perhaps the most seasoned political leaders in the region. At times, Merkel has pushed for maintaining ties with Turkey despite pressure at home over contentious issues such as migration and human rights.
On Saturday the two briefly acknowledged the different styles of government the two countries have adopted.
“Sixteen years is not a short time, and I have been in power for more than 19 years,” Erdogan said when asked to compare the political acumen of Merkel.
“We have talked with and worked with many world leaders, and the chancellor was quite successful in administering Germany,” Erdogan said. “We will watch the developments of our relations, but without a coalition [in Germany] they could have been in a better place. It’s not easy to work with a coalition government.”
In 2018, Turkey began switching to a presidential system of government, handing more power to Erdogan’s office in what he said was an effort to do away with an unstable parliamentary system that was too susceptible to party politics and the need for coalitions.
Markel laughed off the suggestion from Erdogan to make such a change in Germany, saying she was focused on maintaining good relations with Turkey.