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German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has honoured the achievements of the many Turks who have come to Germany since the 1960s, when they helped to fill the demand for labour and rebuild the country’s post-war economy.

“They helped build our country, they made it strong and they belong at the heart of our society,” he said on Monday at the start of his three-day trip to Turkey, referring to the almost 3 million people of Turkish descent living in Germany today.

“They are not people with a migrant background – Germany is a country with a migrant background.”

In 1961, the governments in Bonn – the West German capital at the time – and Ankara signed a labour recruitment agreement. According to the Foreign Ministry, around 876,000 people came to Germany from Turkey on the basis of that “guest worker” agreement.

The president arrived in Istanbul carrying a 60-kilo kebab skewer symbolizing stories of Turkish migration to Germany. The owner of the snack bar that provided the kebab, Arif Keles, and several other guests travelled on the plane with the president.

Steinmeier began his visit at Istanbul’s historic Sirkeci train station, from where many Turks departed for Germany. There, he was greeted by the recently re-elected mayor of Istanbul Ekrem İmamoğlu, who is seen as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan main rival.

Steinmeier is set to meet Erdoğan on Wednesday in Ankara.

With this sequence of meetings, Steinmeier is sending the signal – whether deliberate or not – that Berlin is already looking ahead to the possible post-Erdoğan era. A meeting with the leader of the opposition CHP party, Özgür Özel, is also planned.

In his speech at the train station, Steinmeier recalled that the history of German-Turkish migration had two directions. In the 19th century, poverty and unemployment had driven craftsmen from Germany to Anatolia. And during the Nazi era, Turkey became a place of refuge for many German artists and intellectuals.

“While Germans helped to design and build the new capital Ankara in the 1930s, it was the ‘guest workers’ from Turkey who helped to build up the economy of the young Federal Republic of Germany from the 1960s onwards and who have now made a decisive contribution to our prosperity for four generations,” Steinmeier said.

Steinmeier’s tour of the historic train station was disrupted by a group of pro-Palestinian demonstrators.

The 50 or so men and women chanted slogans from a distance of just under 100 meters and displayed signs with portraits of Steinmeier, Hitler and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The faces of Steinmeier and Netanyahu were adorned with Hitler moustaches.

The German president will visit on Tuesday the region affected by the earthquake in February 2023, in which more than 53,000 people died, according to Turkish figures. Several thousand people also died in neighbouring Syria.

At the time, the German government pledged €238 million ($254 million) in earthquake aid to Turkey and Syria.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier travels by ship Okyanus from the Eminonu landing stage to the historic summer residence of the German ambassador. Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpaGerman President Frank-Walter Steinmeier travels by ship Okyanus from the Eminonu landing stage to the historic summer residence of the German ambassador. Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier travels by ship Okyanus from the Eminonu landing stage to the historic summer residence of the German ambassador. Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier speaks to media representatives outside Istanbul Sirkeci railroad station. Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpaGerman President Frank-Walter Steinmeier speaks to media representatives outside Istanbul Sirkeci railroad station. Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier speaks to media representatives outside Istanbul Sirkeci railroad station. Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier speaks to media representatives outside Istanbul Sirkeci railroad station. Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpaGerman President Frank-Walter Steinmeier speaks to media representatives outside Istanbul Sirkeci railroad station. Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier speaks to media representatives outside Istanbul Sirkeci railroad station. Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa



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