The visiting German interior minister said Friday that he has urged Turkish officials to protect religious freedom and address the problems facing the country’s minorities.
“I asked Turkish officials to continue their efforts to resolve minorities’ problems concerning obtaining property,” Thomas de Maiziere told reporters during a press conference at the German Embassy in Ankara.
The minister met with Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul on Thursday and then held talks Friday with Turkey’s religious-affairs director, Ali Bardakoğlu, to discuss the reopening of the Halki seminary. The seminary is located on an island off Istanbul and was shut down in 1971.
“The seminary should resume training [religious clerics] after a 40-year break,” de Maiziere said, adding that he was hopeful based on his talks with Turkish officials that the Halki seminary would be reopened.
During the press conference, de Maiziere also addressed the German government’s recent banning of a charity for allegedly having links to the militant organization Hamas. Asked if his government had requested that Turkey launch a probe into the Turkish branch of the charity, the minister said he was responsible for following the associations established in Germany.
“I banned the İHH [Humanitarian Relief Foundation] in mid-July, and the reason was its support for Hamas,” de Maiziere said. “The İHH in Turkey and the one in Germany share the same name, but they are different organizations. My ban is on the İHH in Germany.”
Mutual visits between Turkey and Germany are expected to increase in the coming months. De Maiziere has invited his Turkish counterpart, Beşir Atalay, to Berlin to watch the Turkish and German national football teams compete in a European Football Championship Group Match. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will visit Germany on Oct. 8 and 9, and the German president will visit Turkey in late October.
In addition, German President Christian Wulff and his Turkish counterpart, Abdullah Gül, are expected to break ground for the long-awaited Turkish-German University that will be established in Istanbul’s Beykoz district.