The meaning of Turkish-German reconciliation
This is neither an “any port in a storm” situation nor a “drowning man will clutch at a straw” situation. It looks rather like they are remembering old days of good friendship and extending their cautious hands to shake by ignoring rifts for mutual interests. It is a reconciliation of convenience.
Almost one-and-a-half years ago, relations between Turkey and Germany were so fragile that German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier had to mention Turkey and Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan by name in his inaugural speech on March 22, 2017. “The way we look [at Turkey] is characterized by worry,” Steinmeier had said.
“Everything that has been built up over years and decades is collapsing. President Erdoğan, you are jeopardizing everything that you, with others, have built,” he added.
Those words were a wakeup call for German politicians first and then echoed among Turkish ones. Soon after German politicians stopped alienating Turkey, identifying the country with Erdoğan and attacking Erdoğan’s personality, it was easy to observe that the irritating “Nazi” accusations from the Turkish side faded out.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu’s contacts with his then German counterpart Sigmar Gabriel played a role for a better understanding, with the — rather silent — efforts of two ambassadors, Martin Edelman in Ankara and Ali Kemal Aydın in Berlin. Erdoğan and German Chancellor Angela Merkel started to praise the deep-rooted relations between the two countries, historical, economic and social ties and as defense partners in NATO. The contributions of the strong German business community in Turkey and Turkish investors in Germany have been important, too.
Merkel said on Sept. 6 — on the second day of new German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in Turkey who was hosted by Çavuşoğlu — that her country had no interest in a weaker Turkey, despite the two countries not being politically on the same page on every subject, implying her criticisms in the fields like the rule of law and press freedom. This is a clear message. It coincided with the resumption of Turkish steps to warm up relations with the European Union.
The EU Reforms Action Committee had its first meeting in three years last week, chaired by Çavuşoğlu and with the participation of the justice and interior ministers who vowed to improve the quality of democracy, as the state of emergency declared after the military coup attempt in 2016 ended in July.
Maas on Sept. 5 also said Germany supported Turkey’s position on Idlib in talks in Tehran, which will also be attended by Russia and Iran today. Turkey says intelligence agencies should work together in order to separate terrorists from civilians in Idlib to prevent civilian casualties and to avoid an influx of refugees and terrorists to Turkey, which would eventually pose a threat to EU countries. This is a valuable support at a crucial time.
This political support could make a four-party meeting in Istanbul on Syria between Turkey, Russia, Germany and France to bridge the Astana talks, which sought to create de-escalation zones, with the Geneva talks for the future of Syria more possible.