In Istanbul, Angela Merkel (67) was received by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (67) on Saturday.

► Both have known each other for a long time: when Merkel became Chancellor in 2005, Erdogan had been head of government for two years. But its increasingly autocratic style of government, the razing of democratic institutions, the disregard for human rights and the massive persecution of opposition members led to a significant deterioration in German-Turkish relations.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and German Chancellor Angela Merkel before their talks in IstanbulPhoto: Federal Government via Getty Images

The most important point in the talks on Saturday: The EU-Turkey deal, with which Merkel wants to keep refugees away from the European border, for which Ankara has been pledged a total of six billion euros.

The EU must continue to support Turkey “in the fight against illegal migration”, said Merkel after the farewell meeting Erdogan. Support for Turkey must also be guaranteed “beyond what has already been decided,” said Merkel. Erdogan said that Turkey is a “host” for refugees. “And that will remain so.”

► The 2016 EU-Turkey deal stipulated that Ankara would prevent unauthorized migration to the EU and that Greece could send refugees back to Turkey who had made it to the Aegean Islands. At the same time, the EU agreed to accept a Syrian refugee from Turkey for every Syrian sent back and to support Ankara financially in caring for the refugees.

At least three million Syrians have found refuge in Turkey, but tensions and racist attacks are growing.

Merkel nevertheless praised the Turkish government’s willingness to help: “Turkey is doing something extraordinary with regard to Syrian refugees.” At the same time, the Chancellor stated that the causes of flight persist, the situation in the northern Syrian province of Idlib, where at least two million Syrian internally displaced people live “Very tense.” In the past few weeks, the armed forces of the Syrian dictator Assad had repeatedly bombed villages in Idlib.

Merkel and Erdogan also spoke about a second crisis country at their meeting: Elections are to be held in Libya on December 24th. With two Libya conferences in Berlin, the German government called on the warring parties to end the conflict. In Libya, the Turkish government supports the internationally recognized government in Tripoli, while the opposing side around the warlord Chalifa Haftar was supported by France, Merkel’s most important ally in Europe.

A long-agreed gradual withdrawal of the Turkish and Russian troops and the Syrian militias they deployed is not making progress: When Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (55, SPD) reopened the German embassy in September, dozens of Turkish military vehicles were stationed at Tripoli airport.

Regarding the human rights situation in Turkey, Merkel said that she was “critical” of the development. Erdogan was able to cope with that: He also hopes to be able to work well with the future federal government. The Chancellor has always maintained a “sensible and solution-oriented approach”. “I wish the new government and its Chancellor every success.”