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Erdoğan praises Merkel for not criticizing Turkey’s policies

German Chancellor Angela Merkel greets Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan prior to the start of the first working session of the G20 meeting in Hamburg, northern Germany, on July 7. Leaders of the world's top economies will gather from July 7 to 8, 2017 in Germany for likely the stormiest G20 summit in years, with disagreements ranging from wars to climate change and global trade. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Bernd Von Jutrczenka

Amid tension between Berlin and Ankara, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Thursday that he was hopeful about Turkey’s relations with Germany and praised German Chancellor Angela Merkel for refraining from criticizing and interfering with Turkey’s policies.

Erdoğan’s remarks came during an interview with Reuters at the Peninsula Hotel on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

“I am quite hopeful relations will improve. … We have no problem with the German public. We have a problem with some officials’ wrong attitude against Turkey,” Erdoğan said.

Merkel said during a televised debate earlier this month that Turkey should not become a member of the European Union — Turkey’s largest trading partner with which it has a customs union.

She said she would talk to Germany’s EU partners to reach a compromise on ending Turkey’s accession talks with the bloc.

“Things haven’t gone well for the last 54 years regarding Turkey’s EU membership … We have been waiting at the door of the EU, and things have got worse. They have never kept their promises,” Erdoğan said.

Erdoğan on Sept. 6 blasted Merkel and her Social Democratic rival Martin Schulz for their remarks against Turkey’s EU membership.

“I’m not saying you’re a Nazi, a fascist. I am explaining the incident. … This incident is Nazism. This is fascism,” Erdoğan said.

Berlin’s relations with Ankara have been strained by Turkey’s crackdown on government critics after a failed coup last year. Germany and its partners in the European Union say the crackdown undermines democracy.

Turkey and Germany are also at odds over Berlin’s refusal to extradite asylum seekers Turkish President Erdoğan and his government accuse of involvement in the botched coup against him.

Germany has been angered by Turkey’s arrest of around a dozen German citizens, including German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel, who has been held for more than 200 days.

Merkel, whose conservatives are expected to win a federal election in Germany on Sept. 24 and secure her a fourth term in office, recently said Germany would restrict some arms sales to Turkey.

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), who are trailing the conservatives in opinion polls, had earlier said that all major arms exports to Turkey had been put on hold.

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