Turkish and German foreign ministers stress importance of ‘dialogue’ to mend fences

Turkish and German foreign ministers stress importance of ‘dialogue’ to mend fences

Turkish and German foreign ministers stress importance of ‘dialogue’ to mend fences

Ankara’s differences with Berlin can be overcome through dialogue, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Jan. 6 during a visit to Germany to meet his German counterpart Sigmar Gabriel.

“We, as two foreign ministers, believe our disagreements will be overcome through dialogue,” Çavuşoğlu told reporters at a joint news conference with Gabriel at the Kaiserpfalz Imperial Palace in Germany’s Goslar.

“We do not need to agree on Turkey’s EU membership process, but both sides need to overcome issues such as updating the Customs Union agreement,” he said.

Despite not being a member of the EU, Turkey has been part of the Customs Union agreement since 1995, though the mutual trade deal does not cover agriculture, services or public procurement. 

Ankara has been pushing the EU to include it in an updated agreement, but Turkey’s tense ties with Germany have stalled the process.

For his part, Gabriel said that “despite differences of opinion” it is their duty to overcome all difficulties in relations between Berlin and Ankara.

“We have a serious will in this regard. Together with my colleague we see it as a common duty to overcome this tension,” he said.

The meeting came one day after French President Emmanuel Macron suggested that Turkey should renounce its ambition of joining the EU and settle instead for a looser “partnership,” after talks with visiting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

“I’d be lying if I said we could open new chapters,” Macron said in reference to the accession process.

In response, Erdoğan said Ankara’s 54-year wait to join the EU was “seriously exhausting” the Turkish people.

Speaking to reporters while returning to Turkey, he added that he hoped 2018 would be a year of softening in ties with the EU.

“We support a rapid recovery in relations,” he said.

Turkish and German foreign ministers stress importance of ‘dialogue’ to mend fences

The fight against terrorism was one of the key issues during the Çavuşoğlu-Gabriel meeting in Goslar.

Çavuşoğlu said there is a need to strengthen cooperation with Germany in the fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and other terrorist groups.

“We welcome the steps that Germany has taken against the PKK. Putting [fugitive coup attempt suspect] Adil Öksüz on its wanted list is one such step, but we have more expectations from Germany,” he added.

Turkey accuses Öksüz and the network of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen of masterminding the July 2016 military coup attempt.

Ties between Ankara and Berlin have been strained since the coup attempt, with Turkish politicians criticizing their German counterparts for failing to show enough solidarity with the government against the attempted military takeover. Ankara has also repeatedly accused Berlin of turning a blind eye to various outlawed groups.

On PKK activities in Germany, Gabriel said German police are taking “necessary measures” against the terrorist group.

“Recently, we did not allow them to show their flag in Duesseldorf,” he added.

One of the key disputes between Berlin and Ankara centers on the arrest of German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel, a correspondent for the German newspaper Die Welt. Prosecutors accuse him of spreading propaganda for the PKK and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has accused him of being a “terrorist.”

Gabriel said he had discussed with Çavuşoğlu thorny issues, including Yücel’s case, but did not give details.

The minister had said last month that Turkey’s decision to release a sixth German citizen from jail on Dec. 21 gave hope that relations between the two NATO allies could improve.

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