Germany's Merkel announces October conference on Syria

BERLIN, dpa correspondents (dpa)- Germany will take part in an international conference with Russia, Turkey and France in October to discuss the conflict in Syria, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday.
The meeting will focus on the critical situation in the last rebel stronghold of Idlib, she said, as she hosted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Berlin for a controversial state visit.
Russia - an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad - and Turkey recently struck a deal for a buffer zone in Idlib that eased fears of an all-out offensive by the Syrian government and its allies.

Ankara has sought Germany's support as it tries to prevent further conflict in the north-western province, Syria's last rebel-held stronghold, mainly due to the potential for a further refugee influx into Turkey.
The press conference, in the middle of a day of formal events that began with a military ceremony and talks with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, was briefly interrupted when security officers escorted out a journalist.
Reporter Ertugrul Yigit, wearing a t-shirt bearing the slogan "Freedom for journalists in Turkey," was taken out of the room as Erdogan smiled from the podium.
The detention of journalists, and in particular German citizens, has been one of the main points of friction between Turkey and not only Germany but also many Western governments.
The detentions and Erdogan's increasingly authoritarian rule have provoked criticism of both Erdogan and Merkel, for granting him his first state visit to Germany.
An "Erdogan Not Welcome" demonstration is set to bring thousands of people out onto the streets of Berlin later on Friday.
Merkel expressed her hope in the press conference that the remaining cases of Germans detained in Turkey can be resolved "quickly."
For his part, Erdogan referred in his remarks to the case of journalist Can Dundar, who was convicted in Turkey of disclosing state secrets, and has been living in exile in Germany since 2016.
"I imagine you know that Can Dundar is a spy ... It is our basic right to seek extradition of such a convict," Erdogan said.
There were, Merkel said at the news conference after her talks with Erdogan, "deep-seated differences" between the two countries.
Few international leaders stir up the same amount of controversy in Germany as Erdogan, not only in politics but also in other areas such as sport.
A Turkish referendum last year on expanding the president's powers, and Erdogan's meeting with top footballer Mesut Oezil in May - among other incidents - still spark passionate debate in a country that is home to some 3 million people of Turkish origin
Erdogan has been seeking to repair ties on his first state visit to Germany, however, and said he is aiming to turn "a new page" in relations despite the continuing tensions over human rights.
He is due to attend a state banquet - which Merkel will not attend - on Friday evening.

Sunday, September 30th 2018
dpa correspondents (dpa)

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