Top Merkel aide says Turkey’s conduct ‘unacceptable’

Michelle Martin


BERLIN (Reuters) – Turkey’s behavior is “unacceptable” and Germany has a duty to protect its citizens and companies but also wants to maintain strong ties with Ankara, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff said on Sunday.

Relations between the NATO allies have deteriorated since Turkey arrested six rights activists, including one German, two weeks ago as part of a wider crackdown since last year’s failed coup against President Tayyip Erdogan.

“We want to have good relations with this big and important country but that’s only possible if Turkey is and remains a state under the rule of law,” Peter Altmaier told newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

“Turkey’s behavior is unacceptable,” Altmaier said when asked about Turkey barring German lawmakers from visiting soldiers at a base in Turkey, the arrest of Germans and Erdogan’s recent comments on Germany.

Tensions are already high between the two countries following the arrest of a Turkish-German journalist and a pullout of German troops from a Turkish air base.

Berlin wants German rights activist Peter Steudtner and journalist Deniz Yucel to be freed as there is no apparent reason for their arrests and the government is taking every opportunity to get consular access to them, to talk with the Turkish government and with Erdogan, Altmaier said.

The German government is monitoring developments in Turkey closely and will decide on sanctions if necessary, he said.

Germany has increased pressure on Turkey in the past few days, threatening measures that could hinder German investment there and saying it is reviewing Turkish applications for arms projects.

On Saturday, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel sought to reassure the 3 million people in Germany of Turkish descent in a letter published in the Bild newspaper that they belonged and were not the target of changes to government policy on Turkey.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier told broadcaster ZDF the Turkish diaspora in Germany meant ties with Turkey were “especially important” and they were probably suffering the most when they saw Ankara tearing down bridges built with Germany over many years.

The vast majority of Germans are unhappy with the German government’s policy toward Turkey, an Emnid survey for Bild am Sonntag newspaper showed. Some 76 percent said the German government was not defending itself enough against Turkish President Erdogan, while 12 percent disagreed.

Germany has warned citizens who travel to Turkey they do so at their own risk. The Emnid survey, published on Sunday, also found 49 percent of Germans do not think they can go on holiday in Turkey anymore while 44 percent think they can.

The head of foreign trade at Germany’s chambers of commerce (DIHK) told Welt am Sonntag newspaper that increasing bilateral tensions were creating uncertainty for German firms and would likely push trade volumes down by around 2 billion euros ($2.33 billion).

Reporting by Michelle Martin. Editing by Jane Merriman


President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, center, attending a meeting of his governing Justice and Development Party this month in Ankara, Turkey. Credit Presidency Press Service

ISTANBUL — President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey raised the stakes in a long-running diplomatic spat with Germany on Friday, dismissing the threat of an informal German economic embargo and rejecting calls to release several German citizens held in Turkish jails.

In recent days, German officials have offered unusually strong criticism of Turkey’s government. The German foreign, finance and justice ministers advised Germans against traveling to or conducting business in Turkey.

Though the ministers stopped short of imposing a travel ban or economic embargo, their comments were problematic for the sputtering Turkish economy. Germany is Turkey’s main trading partner, and more than 3.3 million German tourists visited Turkey last year, more than came from any other country.

On Friday, Mr. Erdogan scoffed at the ministers’ warnings.

“I want to remind my German friends, and to all the world, you do not have the power to defame Turkey,” Mr. Erdogan said at a fund-raising event for a hospital. “You do not have the power to scare us with these kinds of things.”

German politicians have a long list of frustrations with Turkey, the most recent being the arrest of a German citizen, Peter Steudtner, one of the 10 human rights campaigners detained in Turkey this month on terrorism charges.


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One Response to “Top Merkel aide says Turkey’s conduct ‘unacceptable’”

  1. daveyone1 Says:

    Reblogged this on World Peace Forum.

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