German officials said Tuesday that the rapprochement between Ankara and Moscow after Turkey downed a Russian fighter jet near the Syrian border last year was an important step and was unlikely to affect Turkey's NATO membership.
In an interview with the Bild daily, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the diplomatic thaw was a good development and there was no danger of the relationship becoming so close "that Russia can offer Turkey an alternative to the NATO security partnership."
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in St Petersburg on Tuesday for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, marking the first face-to-face attempt to mend ties between the two countries since the downing of the military jet in November.
Speaking at a meeting with troops in the German state of Hesse, Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen welcomed the talks between the Turkish and Russian heads of state.
"I have no doubt that Turkey knows to which side it belongs," she said in reference to the country's membership in NATO, which has had a tense relationship with Russia since the illegal annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula in 2014.
Gernot Erler, Social Democrat lawmaker and government coordinator for Germany-Russia relations, told Deutschlandfunk radio that "an end to the ice age between Russia and Turkey is advantageous for the EU" because of the countries' role in the Syrian peace process.
"The meeting is an attempt by the two heads of state to send a joint signal that they are not dependant on the West," Erler said, adding that the relationship was still too burdened to pose a serious threat to the bloc.
The meeting comes amid increasingly strained relations between Turkey and the West as a growing number of EU leaders condemn Erdogan's sweeping purge of suspected sympathizers of a July 15-16 coup attempt.