It’s time to return to normalcy with Germany, says PM
Hander Fırat - ANKARA
It’s about time for Turkey and Germany to normalize bilateral ties, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım has said on Feb. 15, vowing to open a new page in ties with the EU’s strongest nation after a full year of political tension.
“We are of the opinion that it’s time for Turkey and Germany to return to normal life,” Yıldırım told journalists traveling with him on board from Minsk to Berlin. The prime minister is scheduled to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin before moving to Munich where he will attend the opening of a security summit.
“Last year was the year of elections. [Political] Weather conditions were tough here [in Turkey] and there [in Germany]. Germany is now about to form a new government after a long time and our referendum has been left in the past,” he said.
Turkey held a referendum in April 2017 to amend the constitution in a bid to shift the executive-presidency from parliamentary system. Germany held parliamentary elections in September 2017. Pre-election campaigns in both countries had a severe impact on Turkish-German ties especially after senior government officials had not been allowed to meet the Turkish community in Germany to promote constitutional amendments.
“We will discuss our bilateral ties, regional issues and EU matters in a substantive way with Chancellor Merkel. I hope we may leave troubled issues behind and open a new page,” Yıldırım said.
The prime minister said he had been hoping Germany shared their will to enhance ties. “I think the new coalition government that emerged after elections shares this will,” he said.
Banning the activities and public events of the members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Germany is an important step, he acknowledged, calling this a step in the right direction for fixing ruined ties.
“We should not see Germany as Germany alone. It is the backbone of the EU. It is Turkey’s largest trade partner in the EU and our four million people are making a bridge between our countries. That is why downgrading ties between Turkey and Germany is illogical,” Yıldırım said.
Regarding Turkish-German journalist Deniz Yücel, the prime minister said the government has hopes Yücel will stand before the court as soon as possible, as every hearing has given hope for him to gain his freedom. “I think a development might be seen soon and this will no longer be an issue between Turkey and Germany,” he said.
The Die Welt reporter was arrested on charges of terrorism in February 2016. He has been in prison for more than a year and has not yet been indicted.
In an interview with the BBC on Feb. 14, Yıldırım said the city center of Afrin (in northern Syria) is “surely” included in the areas for the Turkish military operation.
“Of course [the military will enter the Afrin city center]. So, you clear the countryside ... If terror elements remain [in the city center] you will have failed the objective,” he told the British broadcaster in a sit-down interview.
“[The accusers] are looking in the wrong direction for civilian deaths,” the prime minister said, answering questions on whether there have been civilian deaths since Turkey’s military operation has begun. Turkey launched “Operation Olive Branch” on Jan. 20 to clear People’s Protection Units (YPG) militants from Afrin.