German officials at odds over reports on Turkey as ‘Islamist hub’
REUTERS photoGerman officials have issued contradicting statements over a leaked government report saying Turkey is a “hub for Islamist groups,” with Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere defending the report just hours after two other high-level officials praised Ankara for its efforts against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
“There’s nothing to regret,” de Maiziere told German regional broadcaster rbb on Aug. 17, while stressing that the report showed only “one aspect” of Turkey.
Earlier in the day, Interior Ministry spokesman Johannes Dimroth had said the report was signed by a deputy minister and that neither de Maiziere nor the Foreign Ministry had been involved.
“We are deeply convinced that Turkey is the most important partner in the fight against ISIL,” Dimroth said.
“Where people work, mistakes can happen,” he added, saying a mistake was made in the transmitting of the classified written response to a lawmaker without first consulting the Foreign Ministry.
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.
Germany’s government spokesman Steffen Seibert declined to comment on the report but he said Berlin still viewed Ankara as a partner in the fight against ISIL.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Sawsan Chebli also refused to confirm the contents of the document.
“On what has been published in the media, we do not share the assessment as a whole,” Chebli said.
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.
“It is obvious that, behind these claims, there are some political circles in Germany who have double-standards in the fight against terror, including over the bloody acts of the PKK [outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] terrorist organization, which continues to target Turkey,” read the statement.