Turkey "key country" in problem region, says Westerwelle
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle Friday declared Turkey was a "key country" in finding solutions for the problems in the surrounding region, DPA reported.
"Turkey is surrounded by the most problematic region of the world," Westerwelle said at an Istanbul reception hosted by Egemen Bagis, Turkey's top European Union negotiator, according to the semi-official Anatolian news agency.
Westerwelle heads the Free Democrat Party (FDP), the new junior partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel's governing coalition. This is his first extended trip abroad since taking office in October.
"As Germany, we have a great interest in Turkey," Westerwelle said. "The visit to Turkey is not a coincidence. It is a symbol."
Germany and Turkey have a strained relationship, not least over Ankara's ambition to join the European Union, and the situation of the large Turkish immigrant population in Germany.
During a Thursday press conference in Ankara with Ahmet Davutoglu, his Turkish counterpart, Westerwelle affirmed Germany's commitment to any agreements made between Turkey and the EU and urged Ankara to maintain its reform process.
Asked at a press conference on Thursday about his coalition partners' critical position regarding Turkey's EU membership, Westerwelle answered: "I am speaking here not as a tourist in shorts but as a member of the coalition government."
Westerwelle is due to have a planned meeting with Patriarch Bartholomew I, leader of the Orthodox Church in Istanbul later Friday.
Westerwelle arrived in Istanbul, one of 2010's European capitals of culture, after a day of political meetings in the capital, Ankara.
From Istanbul, he will head to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).