Turkey is an important partner for Germany, and Chancellor Angela Merkel is interested in meeting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a government spokesperson said on Monday.

The remarks came after opposition lawmakers criticized Germany’s official invitation for a fall visit by Erdogan, who won Turkey’s landmark election last month. 

“We are always interested in talks with Turkey, which is a close and important partner for us in many areas,” deputy government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer told a news conference in Berlin, adding that Merkel is also interested in meeting Erdogan. 

German daily Bild reported on Saturday that President Frank-Walter Steinmeier invited his counterpart Erdogan to pay a state visit in late September. 

Erdogan will be ceremonially welcomed with military honors at the German presidential palace, and during his visit he will also address the members of the Turkish community, the paper reported. 

Besides his meeting with Steinmeier, who holds a largely ceremonial position, Erdogan was also scheduled to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss bilateral ties and international issues. 

Maas dismisses criticisms 

Dismissing criticisms by opposition lawmakers, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas defended President Steinmeier’s decision to invite Erdogan. 

“I believe that one has to treat in an appropriate manner someone who is elected the head of state of a country, and that is what the president has done,” he told a press conference in Berlin.  

“And it is especially important to talk with someone with whom you have many unresolved issues,” he added. 

First official visit since 2014 

Steinmeier’s office confirmed on Monday that Berlin had extended an official invitation to Erdogan for a state visit, but gave no date.

“An exact date for the visit has not been set yet,” a spokeswoman told local media. 

Turkish President Erdogan made his last official visit to Berlin in February 2014. 

Political relations between Ankara and Berlin have suffered several setbacks in recent years, but both sides have taken steps in recent weeks towards normalizing ties.