Merkel vows to restrict trade with Turkey over arrests
BERLIN - ReutersGermany will have no choice but to restrict its economic ties with Turkey to pressure its NATO partner into releasing German citizens it imprisoned on political grounds, Chancellor Angela Merkel said in remarks published on Sept. 16.
Ankara and Berlin have been at odds, particularly since the July 2016 coup attempt in Turkey. Relations became particularly tense after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she would support the end of Ankara’s membership talks with the European Union in late August. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan previously urged Turkish citizens in Germany not to vote for Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union or other major parties in the country, calling them “enemies of Turkey.”
Turkey and Germany are also at odds over Berlin's refusal to extradite asylum seekers Ankara accuses of involvement in the July 15, 2016, failed coup attempt, widely believed to have been masterminded by the followers of the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen.
"We will have to further cut back our joint economic cooperation with Turkey and scrutinise projects," Merkel told the Passauer Neuen Presse newspaper in an interview when asked how she wants to secure the release of Germans held in Turkey.
The simmering tensions have seeped into campaigning for a federal election in Germany, especially after Erdoğan urged German Turks to boycott the main parties in the vote on Sept. 24.
Home to some 3 million people of Turkish descent, Germany has traditionally had good relations with Turkey, which is also a major trade partner and tourist destination for German sun-seekers.
German officials have been enraged by Turkey's arrest of around a dozen German citizens, including the German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel, who has been held for more than 200 days.
Merkel, whose conservatives are expected to win the election and secure her a fourth term in office, said on Sept. 12 Germany would restrict some arms sales to Turkey.
Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) who are trailing the conservatives in opinion polls, had earlier said that all major arms exports to Turkey had been put on hold.
Merkel said during a televised debate earlier this month that Turkey should not become a member of the European Union - Turkey's largest trading partner with which it has a customs union.
She said she would talk to Germany's EU partners to reach a compromise on ending Turkey's accession talks with the bloc