Germany opts for hardline stance against Turkey

Jerome Frank
July 21, 2017

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel announced Thursday a range of steps to be taken against Turkey in response to the detention of Peter Steudtner, who is accused of terrorism charges by Turkish authorities but is described as a human rights activist by the German government.

The foreign ministry spokesman, Martin Schäfer said that the German minister interrupted his vacations to personally convey his government's "outrage" for the incomprehensive arrest.

Gabriel recalled that Turkey, having long seen itself as "a member of the European family", had levelled Nazi jibes at Germany, and accused Erdogan of worsening a crisis that Berlin had repeatedly sought to ease through dialogue.

The six rights activists arrested are among 50,000 jailed pending trial in Turkey in a crackdown on what Erdogan calls a terrorist network that mounted a failed army coup last July.

Berlin will also contact its European partners to discuss possible curbs on EU financial aid to Turkey "in the coming days and weeks", Gabriel announced.

Turkey in February arrested, on similar charges, German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel of Die Welt and is holding several other German citizens.

Germany, for its part, sparked anger in Turkey's government by barring top officials from speaking at political rallies on German soil.

"We need our policies towards Turkey to go in a new direction. we can't continue as we have done until now". So far this year, bookings from Germany have accounted for some 10 percent of Turkey's tourists. "As long as you don't, Turkey will perceive Germany as a country which is protecting terrorists".

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The Turkish foreign ministry said statements by the spokesmen for the German chancellor and foreign ministry on Wednesday constituted "diplomatic rudeness" and said the judiciary can not be instructed or counselled by anyone.

Germany has warned its citizens against travel to Turkey and threatened to deter economic investments in the country amid a deepening rift between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies after Turkey detained a German citizen last week, one of a group of human rights activists arrested.

The Foreign Ministry Statement said: "our relations should not be based on blackmail and threats but on internationally accepted norms and principles".

Last year, the number of foreign visitors to Turkey fell to 25.4 million amid a spate of bombings by Kurdish and Islamist militants, the lowest in nine years.

Several weeks ago, Erdogan told Die Zeit weekly that if more German tourists shun the popular holiday destination, Turkey would simply seek to attract more visitors from Russian Federation, now the number two country of origin. "We have no other choice - because we are responsible for the protection of the citizens of our country - but to adapt our travel and safety advisory to Turkey and let Germans know what can happen to them when they travel to Turkey".

Gabriel said the jailing of Peter Steudtner, who along with five others including Amnesty International's Turkey director is accused of links to terror groups, showed it was time to shed previous diplomatic restraint toward Ankara.

Mehmet Simsek, Turkey's deputy prime minister, said on Thursday the reports were untrue.

Schaefer also mentioned the ongoing detention of German reporter Mesale Tolu, who has been in Turkish custody since April.

Other reports by Guamnewswatch

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