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Interview: Guido Westerwelle in DIE ZEIT on the German deployment in Afghanistan, the Middle East and Turkey’s international role

08.07.2010 - Interview

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On Afghanistan, what is the main aim in terms of communication: to gain support for an unpopular deployment or to get across that we will withdraw as soon as possible?

I am not unhappy at all that the German public has basically a healthy scepticism regarding deployments abroad. For at the same time the three major parties clearly committed to our deployment in Afghanistan received together around 75% of the votes at the last general elections. Our task is to convince people how necessary this deployment is also when horrendous attacks have occurred. Political leaders must also point out time and time again that this deployment is not intended to go on indefinitely. Over the next three years we want to work towards the prospect of withdrawal. This is now starting at regional level, possibly already this year, certainly next year. By 2014 Afghanistan should have reached the point where the Afghan Government can take over full responsibility for the country’s security. That does not mean, however, that all our troops will have then come home and development aid, infrastructure and reconstruction assistance will no longer be needed.

When the aid convoy for Gaza was attacked, we Germans realized immediately that this was something that concerned us because Israel was involved. Turkey was involved, too, but that did not trigger any such reflex. How do you explain this?

It is important that Turkey’s international role is clearly seen quite irrespective of this particular incident. Whether the issue is Iran, the Middle East or other global problems, Turkey is now a force in the world to be reckoned with. That is why we are being too shortsighted if we limit the ongoing debate to the question of Turkey’s possible membership of the European Union. We need to recognize there has been a dramatic shift in global tectonics. Countries like Turkey as well as the emerging powers in Asia and Latin America have acquired real economic as well as political clout. We Germans need to give Turkey a great deal more attention both in the international arena and as an economic factor, also because we have a very significant Turkish community in Germany.

Will you manage some time to persuade your coalition partner to drop the idea of a “privileged partnership”?

That is something that has not been mentioned for a good while now; that goes also for other European governments that have floated such ideas in the past. I hope everyone realizes we should have a serious debate here and not prematurely discuss questions which will only arise some years from now.

The questions were put by Tina Hildebrandt and Bernd Ulrich

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