Germany has welcomed signs that relations with China are returning to normal after a bitter diplomatic row sparked by the Dalai Lama's meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel in September. 'We are delighted that after the turbulence of the past months we can envision a return to normal working relations built upon trust,' German foreign ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger said yesterday. Mr Jaeger confirmed that Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi would hold talks with his German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, in Berlin today. China cancelled a host of bilateral meetings with Germany last year to protest against Dr Merkel's meeting with the exiled Tibetan leader, who is considered a dangerous separatist by Beijing. Dr Merkel, who expressed support for the Dalai Lama's quest for cultural autonomy for Tibet, has steadfastly maintained that she did the right thing and that ties with China should be able to 'withstand differences of opinion'. The Chinese foreign ministry issued a statement on Sunday signalling that relations between the two major trading partners were thawing. 'The Chinese government attaches great importance to its friendly ties with Germany and has always taken a strategic and long-term perspective in studying and handling the problems in bilateral relations,' it said. Minister for Science and Technology Wan Gang said in an interview with Germany's Handelsblatt newspaper yesterday that Dr Merkel was 'welcome in Beijing at any time, also for the Olympic Games'. China was interested in extending 'dialogue with Germany on all levels', he added. Mr Jaeger said Mr Steinmeier, who was seen as being critical of Dr Merkel's stance, had been working behind the scenes since September 'in close co-operation' with Mr Yang in a bid to mend fences with Beijing. 'We are very happy that these efforts have not been in vain, and we look forward to greeting the Chinese minister in Berlin for talks [today],' he said. The ministers' meeting will take place on the sidelines of talks among the six nations mulling further UN sanctions against Iran for defying the demands of the international community on its contested nuclear programme. Dr Merkel's office declined to answer questions yesterday on whether she would be ready for a repeat visit by the Tibetan leader. 'The chancellor firmly believes that the conversation with the Dalai Lama was important, that it was not a mistake,' said Ulrich Wilhelm, her spokesman. 'However, it is not wise in foreign policy to take concrete positions on questions that will only arise in the future.'