German president pledges to donate TL 2.5 million for syrians

German President Joachim Gauck has pledged to donate TL 2.5 million for syrians who have fled to Turkey from the ongoing civil war in syria, after he visited the tent city that is a temporary home to about 22,000 syrians in Turkey’s southern province of Kahramanmaras.

Gauck, who is on a four-day official visit to Turkey, arrived in the country late on saturday accompanied by his wife, Daniela schadt, and Integration Minister Aydan OzoGuz, the first politician of Turkish origin to hold a top post in Germany.

The German president visited the tent city in Kahramanmaras on sunday. After talking to syrians there, Gauck told journalists that he was very impressed by Turkey’s efforts to provide help to the syrians who have fled the war. He pledged that Germany would donate TL 2.5 million to syrians in Turkey with the cooperation of the Turkish Red Crescent society (Kizilay).

“We can’t do much to end the war in syria. But we should think more about how we can help these people [syrians who have fled the war]. I see international cooperation here. Government institutions and Turkish people are trying their best to help syrians. We, as a rich country, should ask ourselves whether we are doing everything we can to help,” said Gauck.

“This visit was an important message for me to appreciate Turkey’s efforts. When I go back to my country, I will tell my observations to the German government,” he added. Gauck handed out toys to syrian children in the tent city.

German Integration Minister OzoGuz said she was very impressed to see Turkey opening its arms to such a large group of people. stressing that Germany needs to speed up its aid to syrians, OzoGuz said: “Turkey is doing its best. We leave Kahramanmaras with a positive image in our minds. Turkey has taken 800-900,000 syrians, while we only host 5,000. The president is very impressed.”

German president is seen with syrian children during his visit to a tent city in southern Turkey. (Photo: DHA)

Following his visit to the tent city, Gauck inspected 300 German troops stationed in Kahramanmaras, where they operate NATO’s Patriot missiles that guard against threats from syria.

Turkey has Patriot missiles stationed in the southern provinces of Gaziantep, Kahramanmaras and Adana. six Patriot batteries were sent to Turkey by the us, the Netherlands and Germany as part of a NATO decision to boost Turkey’s air defenses against a potential syrian missile attack. The batteries have been in those provinces since December of 2012.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet DavutoGlu sent a letter requesting the extension of the Patriot batteries’ deployment to areas along the syrian border in December of 2013. The extension request was necessary, as the Patriots’ deployment was set to end after one year.

“The risk of a syrian missile attack is still alive,” NATO Parliamentary Assembly President Hugh Bayley told Today’s Zaman in November of last year.

“The simple fact is that there have been a number of incidents on the border. This is why Turkey requested the alliance’s support and the allies decided to reinforce Turkey’s air defenses with Patriot deployments last December [in 2012],” Bayley said.

Gauck to meet Gul and ErdoGan on Monday

Gauck is scheduled to meet with President Abdullah Gul, as well as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoGan, on Monday. According to a statement from President Gul’s office, Gauck and top Turkish officials will discuss regional, bilateral and economic issues.

Gul and Gauck will discuss “all dimensions of the two countries’ bilateral relations,” particularly in the political and economic spheres, according to the statement. They will also exchange views about regional developments and Turkey’s ties with the European union. Gauck is expected to have meetings with nongovernmental organizations in Turkey as well.

Following his visit to Ankara, Gauck will go to Istanbul, where he will attend the opening ceremony of the Turkish-German university in Istanbul’s Beykoz district on Tuesday.

“The German president’s visit to Turkey will further consolidate our cooperation, which has already gained speed in recent years, with our friend and ally, Germany, and will also contribute to carrying our relations a step further in every field,” said the statement.

According to media reports, recent restrictions on freedom of speech and expression in Turkey will dominate the German president’s talks with Turkish officials. Gauck is expected to express his concerns about these matters. Germany’s Der spiegel magazine reported that Gauck would convey clear messages to the Turkish side about the recent restrictions.

A German diplomat, speaking to Today’s Zaman on condition of anonymity, said the meeting with ErdoGan would be closed to the public. The diplomat also added that during his visit to Ankara, Gauck will give a speech at Middle East Technical university (ODTu). Gauck is scheduled to visit Anitkabir, the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, in Ankara as well.

Gauck, 74, is a former Lutheran pastor. He was voted the country’s 11th president for a five-year term in the 2012 election.