German foreign minister to visit Turkey amid row
BERLINGerman Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Nov. 10 announced that he would visit Turkey next week, saying it was important not to “slam the door” on Ankara despite an ongoing row between the two countries.
The German Parliament voted 445 to 139 late on Nov. 10 to extend German military support for the U.S.-led fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) through the end of 2017, including the deployment of over 250 soldiers at the İncirlik Air Base in southern Turkey.
In a parliamentary debate in which he said he would visit Turkey on Nov. 15, Steinmeier said cutting off talks with Turkey about joining the European Union would hurt Turkish citizens as well as the government.
“If we slam the door now and throw away the key, then we will disappoint many people in Turkey who are looking to Europe for help and support, especially now,” Reuters quoted him as saying.
But Steinmeier repeated that any reintroduction of the death penalty in Turkey would mean the “unmistakable end” of negotiations on Turkey’s entry into the EU, and he said Berlin would continue to press Ankara to respect the rule of law.
Following a failed coup attempt on July 15, which Ankara accuses of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen and his supporters of orchestrating, and which led to the deaths of more than 240 people, Turkey detained, dismissed or suspended more than 100,000 soldiers, judges, teachers, journalists and others.
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said Nov. 1 that a “limited measure” could be drafted to restore the death penalty, which was formally abandoned in 2002, while President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he would approve such a measure if parliament backed it.
‘We want good relations with Turkey’
“We want good relations with Turkey, but the reality has changed and we have to adjust our policies accordingly,” Steinmeier said. Not only Germany but also the European Union oppose the reinstatement of the death penalty in Turkey.
Ties between Germany and Turkey are also strained over a vote by the German parliament in June labelling the killings of Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Empire in 1915 as genocide, which had triggered Ankara to temporarily ban German lawmakers from visiting troops at Incirlik Air Base.
The parliamentary extension of German troops’ stay at İncirlik comes after Turkey barred German deputies from visiting the air base, which was followed by Germany threatening to pull German troops back from İncirlik.
That row was overcome after the German government announced that the Bundestag’s Armenian bill did not bind the government. Later Turkey allowed German lawmakers to visit their troops stationed at the base.
German lawmakers on Nov. 10 spoke critically about Turkey’s actions and insisted on the right to continue to visit İncirlik Air Base before approving continued deployment of military resources to support the fight against ISIL. Germany flies reconnaissance missions from the Turkish base with six Tornado fighter jets and has a refueling tank, along with around 250 troops.
“Our soldiers are not at İncirlik because of Turkey, but rather to fight ISIL,” said Julia Obermeier, a member of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU).
Germany’s stance regarding terror ‘very clear’
Another reason for the row is Turkey’s allegation that Germany supports the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), even though the group is designated as a terrorist organization by the EU.
Germany refutes these claims, and during his speech at parliament Steinmeier said Germany’s position on the issue was “very clear.”
“We condemn every kind of terrorism, including the PKK, and we struggle against this with all the means of the state. This is our position and it will remain like this,” Steinmeier said, according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency.