German minister praises cooperation with Turkey to ease row over Islamists
REUTERS photoGermany’s interior minister praised Turkey on Aug. 18 for the country’s excellent cooperation in fighting terrorism in an apparent effort to defuse a dispute with Ankara after a leaked government memo accused Turkey of being a hub for Islamist militants.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said on Aug. 17 that he did not regret the leak but the following day, he struck a conciliatory tone, saying exchanges of information with Turkey on movements of supporters of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants were good, Reuters reported.
“I can say that the cooperation with Turkish colleagues, security services, police and my colleagues is excellent,” he said at a news conference about domestic security.
He also said it was “close to his heart” to emphasize how well Turkish authorities dealt with the investigation of an ISIL attack in Istanbul in January in which German tourists were killed.
The government report, disclosed by German public broadcaster ARD this week, said Turkey had become a hub for Islamist groups and that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had an “ideological affinity” to Hamas in Gaza, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and groups of armed Islamist groups in Syria.
ARD said the report was confidential and commissioned by the Interior Ministry upon a parliamentary request from the leftist Linke party.
The leak of the report just one year before a federal election is a headache for Chancellor Angela Merkel. The report by ARD also unleashed recriminations within her right-left coalition.
De Maiziere, a conservative Christian Democrat, played down tensions within Merkel’s coalition over the leak, although the Social Democrats have demanded that the government explain the report to parliament.
In addition, a spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry, led by Social Democrat Frank-Walter Steinmeier, distanced itself from the report on Aug. 17, saying the assessment was not its own.
Turkey has harshly denounced the ARD report. The Foreign Ministry in a written statement on Aug. 17 said the claims are “a new indication of the distorted mindset that has been attempting to weaken our country by means of [attacking] our president and our government.”
“The required explanation about the report, which was referred to in the ARD news report, is being sought from the FRG [the Federal Republic of Germany] authorities,” the Foreign Ministry said.