Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Germany Thursday for a controversial three-day state visit that both sides hope will help rebuild relations that have been battered in recent years.
Ties between the NATO allies plummeted after Erdogan's government arrested tens of thousands of people in a mass purge following a 2016 putsch attempt, including some who were also German nationals.
Photo: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his wife Emine Erdogan disembark their plane after landing at Berlin's Tegel airport on September 27, 2018. / AFP
Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country is home to a three-million-strong Turkish community, has repeatedly stressed the importance of good relations with Ankara, a partner she relies on to help stem the flow of migrants arriving on European shores.
With no shortage of political and economic issues hanging over the visit, the shadow of football also looms large.
Turkey and Germany are locked in a bitter contest to host the Euro 2024 tournament, with the winner to be announced several hours after Erdogan's arrival.
Security was tight in the German capital, where Erdogan was to be greeted outside Tegel airport by press freedom protesters of the group Reporters Without Borders.
Thousands of Erdogan critics have vowed to take to the streets in Berlin and across Germany to protest against everything from Turkey's record on human rights to its offensive against Kurdish militia in Syria.
Erdogan has said he would use the visit to improve relations and also to press Germany to step up the fight against "terrorist groups" like the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the movement of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara blames for the failed coup.
Despite the tensions, Berlin and Ankara have been at pains to rebuild ties at a time when Erdogan is openly sparring with US President Donald Trump and the Turkish economy is in rapid decline.
The gradual rapprochement began after German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel was freed in February, while journalist Mesale Tolu was also allowed to return to Germany last month. Both still face terror-related charges in Turkey.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will welcome Erdogan -- on his first official visit to Germany since he became president in 2014 -- with military honours and a state dinner at Bellevue Palace on Friday -- which several opposition politicians have vowed to boycott.
During his stay he will also twice meet Merkel for talks that are also expected to focus on the Syria conflict.
On Saturday, Erdogan will travel to Cologne to open one of Europe's largest mosques, commissioned by the Ankara-controlled Ditib organisation.