Crisis with Germany worsens Turkey’s diplomacy outlook
Turkey and Germany are experiencing perhaps the worst crisis in their deep relations in modern times.
The war of words between Berlin and Ankara further escalated on July 20, with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel accusing the Turkish government of plotting the arrest of human rights activists and threatening Turkey with investments card, and Turkish Presidential Spokesman İbrahim Kalın criticizing him of being in preparations for the coming elections in Germany by bashing Turkey.
The remarks came after the Turkish ambassador to Berlin, Ali Kemal Aydın, was summoned to the German Foreign Ministry on July 19 in a form of protest - in a strong language that by-passes diplomatic niceties - to say that German citizens under arrest in Turkey should be released immediately or Germany would take immediate action. Gabriel said Germany has shown too much “patience” and that relations cannot continue in such manner any longer.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu slammed Gabriel in the afternoon hours of July 20, saying that Gabriel’s demand to release his citizens by lunchtime on July 21 was ridiculous and unacceptable.
Reminding the murders of Turkish citizens in Germany by the neo-Nazi NSU organization has been going on for almost 10 years, Çavuşoğlu said it was also hypocritical of Gabriel to talk about cutting aid to Turkey, which Germany failed to provide not for Turkey but for Syrian refugees.
A German journalist of Turkish origin, Deniz Yücel of Die Welt had been arrested earlier under accusations of aiding and spying for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Meşale Tolu is another German citizen of Turkish-Kurdish origin working for Etkin News Agency; also under arrest on similar accusations.
Recently, a German human rights activist, Peter Steudner, was arrested in Istanbul’s Büyükada Island at a seminar organized by Amnesty International, together with İdil Eser, head of the Turkey branch of Amnesty International, and Swedish citizen Ali Gharavi, making it a total of six activists arrested. They are accused of aiding a terrorist organization, without mentioning which terror organization they were allegedly providing support for. The German Foreign Ministry referred to the situation by saying it was based on “fabricated evidence”, and a statement by the U.S. State Department said it was a move with “little evidence” and claimed it undermined the rule of law in Turkey.
Before the crisis over the arrests, there was the row over the NATO base in Turkey’s Central Anatolian province of Konya. After German Tornado planes joined the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), departing from Turkey’s İncirlik base, the row erupted because Turkey did not want unconditional inspection of the base by German parliamentarians and German members of parliament demanded the same for AWACS flights from Konya, in a move to corner German Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of the Sept. 24 elections in Germany.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan, on the other hand, has been asking from Merkel for the return of expelled Turkish military officers, who had been working as military attaches in different countries in Europe and NATO offices before the July 15, 2016, foiled military coup attempt and who are now demanding political asylum from Germany. The Turkish government accuses those former officers of belonging to the illegal network of Fethullah Gülen, the U.S.-resident Islamist preacher who is accused of being behind the coup attempt. Germany’s answer is not different from Turkey’s: The decision is up to the courts, not the government.
Turkey’s relations with the U.S., its biggest ally in NATO, is not going well either mainly because of two reasons: Gülen’s presence in the U.S., against whom the Turkish government demands legal action and the U.S. administration’s inattention to Turkish objections to quell partnership with the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which is the Syria extension of the PKK, in the fight against ISIL in Syria.
Turkey wants empathy for its fight against the coup attempt and terrorism, but the answer it gets is only a more solid evidence.
The escalation of tension in relations with the U.S. and Germany, which automatically affects relations with the European Union, have already overshadowed Turkey’s involvement in the Gulf crisis, which sided with Qatar. Erdoğan is getting prepared for a tour to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar on July 23 and 24.
The important point here is that the worsening of foreign relations of Turkey is directly related with problems inside Turkey: The struggle against the Gülenist network and the struggle against the PKK.