Germany and Turkey plan to establish a German-language university in Istanbul to help foster dialogue between the West and the Muslim world, Germany's foreign minister said in remarks published Saturday.
"The Turkish side is very interested in this and Germany is ready to help realize this interesting project," Frank-Walter Steinmeier was quoted as saying in an interview with the Welt newspaper.
"It is about making a long-term contribution to understanding between cultures," Steinmeier said.
It was unclear when work might begin on the university or when it might open.
The announcement came after Turkish leaders were among the sharpest critics of German-born Pope Benedict XVI for recent remarks about Islam, and days before German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits Turkey.
Merkel is to meet with religious leaders in Istanbul as well as Turkey's President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a two-day trip starting Thursday.
In September, Steinmeier and his Turkish counterpart, Abdullah Gul, launched a joint cultural project in Istanbul devoted to increasing understanding between Christians and Muslims.
The initiative is to explore ways to ease the integration of Muslim immigrants into Western societies. It will also aim to increase the number of educational exchange programs, examine school curricula and train religious leaders.
Germany and Turkey have close historical ties, and some 2 million Turkish immigrants live in Germany. Turkey, which is a 99 percent Muslim country and a candidate for EU membership, sees itself as a key player in improving intercultural and interfaith relations.
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