Turkey eyes better ties with Germany in 2018: Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu
Turkey believes ties with Germany will improve in 2018 after a year of strained relations in 2017, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has said, calling on Berlin to stop what he called “Turkey-bashing trends” and stop "attacking President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.”
“The first three quarters of 2017 were not very good, but we have made some progress since then. We now have good dialogue, particularly with [German] Foreign Minister [Sigmar] Gabriel. I think both sides are ready to normalize relations. So I am expecting a much better year in 2018,” Çavuşoğlu told German press agency, the DPA, in an interview published on Jan. 1.
He stressed that Turkey “does not seek any crisis” but Germany “does not miss an opportunity to attack Turkey.”
“There is a very dangerous Turkey-bashing trend, a [President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan-bashing trend in Germany, which is not very helpful. I don’t think the president cares about it, but it’s affecting bilateral relations,” Çavuşoğlu said.
Ties between the two countries were severely tested last year. Germany banned Turkish politicians, including Erdoğan, from staging political campaigns ahead of the April referendum on shifting to an executive presidential system, after which the Turkish president compared the measures to “Nazi-era” policies, which further deepened tension.
Çavuşoğlu said he did not regret such comparisons from Erdoğan.
“What happened in those days reminded us of what happened during the Nazi era. Maybe it didn’t even happen during the Nazi era. I don’t think the Nazi regime stopped any visits or meetings like those,” he added.
FM not happy with speed of Yücel case
Another cause of tension between Berlin and Ankara is the number of arrested German nationals on “terror” charges, including Die Welt magazine correspondent Deniz Yücel, who has been in jail since mid-February 2017.
Çavuşoğlu rejected claims that such figures were being held as “political hostages,” saying that judicial independence means the only thing the Turkish government can do is call on the judiciary to speed up legal processes. Although 10 months have passed since Yücel was arrested, there is still no indictment against him.
“I am also not very happy that the indictment is still not there. We can only encourage the judiciary to speed up the process. We have done that already. But they are telling us that it’s a very complex situation and that the investigation is still ongoing. Therefore it is taking some time. But this is nothing personal. The accusations against Deniz Yücel are very serious,” the foreign minister said.
“Whoever is imprisoned or whoever has problems in Turkey, he or she becomes a hero in Germany. Why? Is Germany the biggest human rights defender in the world? No. I can give you thousands of examples of human rights violations in Germany,” he added.
Yücel’s case has already been taken to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and Ankara responded to the court’s questions on the dossier in early December. The ECHR’s ruling is expected to be announced soon and Çavuşoğlu noted that Turkey has “always abided by” the Strasbourg court’s decisions, vowing to also do so after its verdict in Yücel’s case.
Germany a safe haven for Gülenists?
Regarding Ankara’s expectations from Germany, Çavuşoğlu cited the activities of members of the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ) in the country, as well as members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
“Germany shouldn’t be a safe haven for supporters of FETÖ and the (outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party) PKK. Look at what happened at a recent demonstration: German police tried to stop PKK supporters and the latter brutally attacked the police,” he said.
“If the police tries to stop them a couple of more times, you will see what they will do in Germany too. This is a terrorist organization. It is a snake. You cannot sleep with the snake in the same room. Today or tomorrow it will bite you,” he added.
Two foreign ministers to meet in January
Çavuşoğlu also recalled that he has good friendly ties with his German counterpart Gabriel, noting that they will meet soon.
“I am going to visit Gabriel in January in his hometown Goslar. He has invited me. We are still working on a date but it will be soon,” he said, adding that they previously met in early October in Çavuşoğlu’s hometown, Antalya.
Recalling Gabriel’s suggestion that a future Brexit agreement with the U.K. could set a model for Turkey too, Çavuşoğlu stressed that Ankara continues to want to be a full member of the EU.
“We started negotiations for full membership. If the EU decides not to accept Turkey, that’s up to the EU. But I see that many countries are still in favor of Turkey’s EU membership. There are only a few countries like Germany, Austria and recently Denmark that are against our membership,” he said.
Çavuşoğlu also stressed that Turkey’s warming ties with Russia do not present “an alternative” to its ties with West.