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German, Italian Leaders Discuss Middle East, Turkey


The Italian prime minister met with Germany's chancellor in Milan Thursday to discuss Turkey's bid to join the European Union, as well as the situation in the Middle East and the Balkans. Sabina Castelfranco reports for VOA from Rome.

In preparation for an EU summit December 14 and 15, the leaders of Italy and Germany held talks in Milan to discuss international issues and Berlin's EU presidency, which begins January 1.

Prime Minister Romano Prodi and Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed support for a U.S. report issued on Wednesday that urges talks with Syria and Iran on resolving the crisis in Iraq.

The German leader said that the Iraq Study Group, which recommended a change of policy in the unpopular war, including talks, offered a "very realistic description of the situation in Iraq."

Prime Minister Prodi said diplomatic talks with Iraq's neighbors are very important.

Mr. Prodi said that, in the Middle East, one needs to proceed with small concrete steps. The report makes these more possible, he added, or, at least, more understandable "to our American ally."

The German and Italian leaders also discussed Turkey's concession in the complicated negotiations on its EU entry bid. Ankara has offered to open access to one major seaport and an airport to Cyprus.

The German chancellor said it would be good to make some progress on this matter. At the EU summit later this month, ministers were scheduled to discuss a partial freeze of Turkey's membership talks.

In their discussions on Germany's six-month European Union presidency, Chancellor Merkel said Germany would do everything possible during its term to re-launch the Middle East peace process. She stressed that Europe must speak with one voice.

On Thursday evening, Mr. Prodi invited Ms. Merkel to attend the season opening of La Scala opera house, featuring Giuseppe Verdi's Aida, directed by Franco Zeffirelli.

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