Turkey and Germany urgently need to calm down

Turkey and Germany urgently need to calm down

After a week of a war of words between Turkish and German senior officials, it was good to hear Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci’s constructive messages on the Ankara-Berlin ties. Both men assured German investors in Turkey that there were no terror-related investigations, as suggested by some media outlets, and that they were under the protection of Turkish laws. 

Yıldırım, in particular, recalled the special ties between the two countries and emphasized that a crisis in bilateral relations would not serve either party. This understanding voiced by Yıldırım should be embraced by other Turkish and German politicians as well. 

As Yıldırım outlined in a statement on July 21, it would be no exaggeration if one categorized the relationship between Turkey and Germany as unique and as one of the most special in international relations. 

The number of Turks living in Germany exceeded 3 million in the last half a century since the first Turkish immigrant worker arrived in the country to help the re-construction and economic rehabilitation of the German state after the devastating World War II.

Germany is Turkey’s largest economic and trade partner and German investments in Turkey have been helping the growth of this country since decades. The bonds between the two countries make this relationship irreplaceable and unavoidable. 

However, all these common points and mutual interests seem to be forgotten by both countries’ officials especially in the recent year. As mentioned in this column so many times, one of the most important reasons of this continued tension is the lack of empathy and solidarity shown by European countries in the aftermath of the July 15, 2016, coup attempt. 

Worse, however, had been observed when Germany and some prominent European countries granted asylum to Gülenists and their sympathizers who fled Turkey in the aftermath of the attempted takeover. In addition, high-ranking military officers, diplomats and attachés who were already in European countries either serving in Turkish embassies or international organizations, like NATO, have also sought asylum in countries where they were residing. 

In the eyes of Ankara, the lack of cooperation from Germany was not limited to Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) members only. None of the almost 4,500 extradition demands regarding PKK members issued by Ankara have been responded to by Berlin, Turkish officials have long been saying, which has also been recognized by German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel in early June.   

In response to Turkish criticisms, German officials have been insisting that the extradition demands lacked the provision of essential evidence. In addition, they have been arguing that the continued purge of FETÖ-affiliated people in Turkey have turned out to be a rather arbitrary arrest campaign that included dissidents who had nothing to do with either Gülenists or the failed coup. 

Turkey’s referendum process in the first part of the year and German parliamentary elections slated to take place on Sept. 24 make the need to find responsible voices to calm down and find a healthy dialogue channel nearly impossible. Amid all this sound and fury, German troops have begun to withdraw from İncirlik base to a non-NATO country, Jordan, with Ankara refusing to give permission to a visit by German lawmakers to another base in the Central Anatolian province of Konya where around two dozen German troops have been stationed as part of NATO’s AWACS mission.

All these prove the categorization of current state of Turkish-German relationship as confidence crisis by the Turkish Foreign Ministry. 

It’s of utmost importance that both sides’ officials calm down and stop accusatory public statements in order to pave the way for responsible politicians and bureaucrats to try to avoid unwanted consequences on ties. Germany should quit the idea of punishing Turkey through economic sanctions and travel warnings as it should be aware that it would only further damage ties between Turkey and the entire Europe. 

It is time for common sense and to responsibly handle the crisis, keeping in mind that breaking Turkey-German bonds will lead to so many new fault lines between Turkey and the rest of Europe.