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Merkel "upbeat" after talks with Erdogan in China

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By Catherine Hardy  with Reuters
Merkel "upbeat" after talks with Erdogan in China

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has had informal talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the fringes of the G20 summit in China.

The summit is being held in the southern Chinese city of Hangzhou.

What did they talk about?

Merkel struck an upbeat tone after the meeting.

Aides say she is expecting progress on two thorny issues that have marred German and European ties with Ankara in recent times.

Both Germany and the EU are trying to ease tensions with Turkey after criticising Erdogan’s crackdown on opponents following a failed coup in July.

They depend on Ankara to stem the flow of migrants through the Balkans.

Incirlik air base

Merkel voiced hopes that Turkey would soon lift a ban on German lawmakers visiting their country’s military personnel stationed at a Turkish air base.

Ankara has refused to allow German lawmakers to visit employees at its Incirlik air base.

Aircraft at the base provide support for the campaign against ISIL.

Commentators say this is linked to the Armenian question.

Turkey banned German lawmakers from visiting the base near the Syrian border in June after their parliament passed a resolution declaring the 1915 killing of Armenians by Ottoman forces a ‘genocide’.

Turkey accepts many Christian Armenians were killed but contests assertions that up to 1.5 million died.

It also denies the killings were orchestrated.

An official told the Reuters news agency that Ankara is expected to approve an October 4 visit to the base.

Visa liberalisation

Merkel said there was the possibility of “a positive outcome” regarding Turkish demands on visa liberalisation in the EU connected to the migrant deal agreed in March, but did not specify details.

Strained relations

German-Turkish relations have been strained since the German Parliament voted in June to label the killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks a century ago as genocide.

Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks around the time of the First World War.

The event is widely viewed by scholars as the first genocide of the 20th century.

Turkey, however, denies the deaths amount to genocide. Ankara says the toll has been inflated and those killed were victims of civil war and unrest.