( dpa ) - The relief in Berlin at signs of a thaw in relations with China is palpable.
Indications that Beijing had tempered its anger over Chancellor Angela Merkel's September meeting with the Dalai Lama were warmly welcomed by the German Foreign Ministry Monday.
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier's official spokesman noted positive comments from Beijing ahead of the visit to Berlin Tuesday of Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.
"We are glad that after the turbulence of recent weeks, a return to normality is in sight," Martin Jaeger said, adding that Germany's wish was to "deepen and develop" the diplomatic ties.
Steinmeier had engaged in intensive diplomacy to resolve the differences of opinion since September, Jaeger said. A series of letters had been exchanged clarifying the positions of both sides.
The German side is attaching considerable significance to Yang's visit, even though the official reason is to discuss Iran's nuclear programme with other members of the UN Security Council.
Jaeger welcomed a statement published earlier Monday by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu.
"The Chinese government attaches great importance to its friendly ties with Germany and has always taken a strategic and long-term perspective in studying and handling the problems in bilateral relations," Jiang said in remarks published by the official Xinhua news agency.
Jiang went out of her way to praise Germany's negative attitude to a planned Taiwanese referendum on applying for membership of the United Nations and noted approvingly that Merkel's government backed a "one-China" policy that recognized that Tibet and Taiwan were Chinese territory.
A chill descended on German-Chinese relations after Merkel met the Dalai Lama for a "private exchange of views" in the Berlin chancellery on September 23.
China hauled in the German ambassador in the week ahead of the highly publicized meeting and warned him of the consequences.
Beijing was as good as its word. A breakfast meeting between Steinmeier and Yang, set for New York the week after the Tibetan leader had met Merkel, was called off.
The Chinese then broke off a justice and human rights dialogue, cancelling an October meeting in Beijing that was to have been attended by German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries.
This dialogue, which the Germans describe as unique in contacts between China and the West and to which they attach great importance, has yet to be resumed.
Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck cancelled a December swing through the Far East after Beijing made clear he was not welcome there.
The spat even caused a rift in Merkel's broad coalition, comprising her conservative Christian CDU/CSU bloc and the Social Democratic Party (SPD).
SPD member Steinmeier accused her of "showcase diplomacy" and openly regretted that the progress he had been making through quiet diplomacy had been undermined.
Perhaps most crucially, Merkel came under pressure from German business. Federation of German Industry (BDI) President Juergen Thumann issued a clear call to Merkel to "maintain a China policy aimed at partnership and mutual respect."
"Following the friction over recent weeks, we need constructive dialogue," Thumann said in November.
Mutual business interests - total trade in 2006 hit 77.4 billion euros (110 billion dollars) - have been key to the change in attitudes.
In an interview in the major German business daily Handelsblatt on Monday, Chinese Science and Technology Minister Wang Gang said Merkel was "always welcome" in Beijing, suggesting the chancellor might like to attend the Olympic Games there in August.
Wang said relations were now "basically good."
As an indication of the improvement, German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel leaves for Beijing at the end of the month with the aim of selling German expertise in the environmental area.
"There is great interest in German environmental technology, and cooperation on environmental issues is one of the most stable factors in our cooperation," Gabriel said.
Merkel made clear as recently as last week that she stood by her decision to meet the Dalai Lama, but when asked Monday whether further meetings were planned, her spokesman said he had no knowledge of any plans.
"Close relations must be able to cope with differences of opinion," Wilhelm Ulrich said.