Turkish, German FMs in ‘tense but friendly’ meet

Turkish, German FMs in ‘tense but friendly’ meet

Turkish, German FMs in ‘tense but friendly’ meet

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Turkey and Germany’s foreign ministers staged a “very tough” but “friendly” meeting in Berlin on March 8 in a bid to defuse recent tension over Turkish ministers’ visits to Germany to campaign for thane upcoming referendum, with the two sides agreeing to pursue greater normalcy.

“We are talking about all these things in order not to have our ties negatively affected. We will continue our dialogue. The relationship between our countries should be much better than any relationship,” FM Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said after meeting German FM Sigmar Gabriel. 

Gabriel, for his part, described the one-and-half-hour long meeting with Çavuşoğlu as “tough” but underlined that both countries wanted relations to return to normalcy. 

Ties between Ankara and Berlin soured after local German administrations canceled meetings by Turkish ministers with the Turkish community to campaign for the upcoming referendum in which a package of constitutional amendments will be voted upon. The government attaches great importance to votes abroad as there are around 1.3 million eligible voters in Germany alone. The tension further increased after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan likened the cancelations of political meetings to “Nazi-era practices” which caused a strong rebuke from Germany to Turkey.  

Amid all these developments, Çavuşoğlu and Gabriel met in Berlin, with the Turkish minister announcing that they will host Germany’s foreign minister in Turkey to further discuss bilateral relations. 

“[Turkey] having bad relations with Germany is to nobody’s advantage. Why would we have bad ties with Germany?” Çavuşoğlu asked, blaming Germany for pursuing a systematic smear campaign against Turkey and turning Erdoğan into a symbol of hatred.  

“In Germany we see many politicians and the press as a whole and global authorities are very, very negative and very harsh and very anti-Turkey, and we even see Islamophobic sentiment. This is what we see as unacceptable ... and a very dangerous trend,” he said, while also calling on the media to cease “black propaganda” against Turkey.  

Çavuşoğlu informed his counterpart about upcoming meetings by Turkish government members in Germany and reiterated that attempts to cancel such events should not be repeated. 

Nazi comparison unacceptable 

Gabriel, in a separate statement, recalled the need for good relations with Turkey, saying, “Whatever differences and arguments we have, there is no alternative to talks because [only] then is there a possibility of returning, step-by step, to normalized and friendly relations between Germany and Turkey.” 

However, Gabriel said there were limits “that may not be overstepped and that includes comparisons with Nazi Germany,” referring to Erdoğan’s earlier statements.     

“Good relations are important because things are so tense now ... returning to normality is what my Turkish colleague and I want,” added Gabriel.

Erdoğan to rally in Germany

The two foreign ministers also discussed the venue of a probable rally to be staged by Erdoğan in Germany, Çavuşoğlu suggested. Although Erdoğan’s program is not yet certain, Çavuşoğlu said Germany would take all security measures for Erdogan’s rally, but did not say which city it would take place in.

In the event Erdoğan decides to hold a public rally in Germany, the head of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Devlet Bahçeli, said he would accompany the president. 

Berlin complains of increased Turkish spying

In the meantime, German government said March 8 that there had been a significant increase in Turkish espionage in Germany. The country’s domestic intelligence agency, the BfV, said divisions in Turkey leading up to the April 16 referendum on boosting the powers of Erdoğan were being mirrored in Germany.

“The BfV is observing a significant increase in intelligence efforts by Turkey in Germany,” it said in a statement. No further details were provided.

Çavuşoğlu talks to his Dutch counterpart

In a separate development, Çavuşoğlu spoke with his Dutch counterpart, Bert Koenders, on March 8 ahead of a planned visit to Netherlands on March 11. Geert Wilders, the head of the ultra-right Party for Freedom, is campaigning to stop the visit of Turkish ministers, including Çavuşoğlu. The Netherlands will hold parliamentary elections on March 15.