Turks safe in Germany, Merkel says, dismissing Ankara’s warning

Turks safe in Germany, Merkel says, dismissing Ankara’s warning

DELBRUECK, Germany - Reuters
Turks safe in Germany, Merkel says, dismissing Ankara’s warning Turks can safely come to Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Sept. 10, dismissing a warning from Ankara that its citizens should take care when travelling there due to “an increase in anti-Turkish sentiment.”

Tensions between Berlin and Ankara have been bubbling for months and Turkey’s warning on Sept. 9 came after Germany’s foreign ministry said on Sept. 5 Germans travelling to Turkey risked arbitrary detention even in tourist areas.

“I want to say very clearly that all Turkish citizens can travel here,” Merkel said in the northwestern German town of Delbrueck during a campaign event ahead of a Sept. 24 election.

“No journalists get arrested here and no journalists get put in custody. Freedom of opinion and the rule of law prevail here and we’re proud of that,” Merkel said.

She pointed to German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel, who has been detained in Turkey for more than 200 days. He is one of the 12 German citizens now in Turkish detention on political charges, four of them holding dual citizenship.

“We think there’s no justification at all for him being in prison and the same applies to at least 11 other Germans,” Merkel said.

Merkel’s comments came after the Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a travel warning on Sept. 9 for its citizens living in Germany and those who will travel to the country, urging them to be cautious and refrain from political discussions ahead of the country’s federal elections later this month.

In a statement issued on its website, the ministry said the political atmosphere in Germany was “under the effect of increasing far-right and even racist discourses” as the election campaign was based on “an anti-Turkey sentiment” and efforts to obstruct its EU accession bid, warning Turkish citizens to “be careful” and keep their composure against “racist and xenophobic slurs.”

The ministry also added that Berlin was “embracing terror organizations,” namely the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), widely believed to have masterminded last year’s failed coup.

“It is advised for our citizens in Germany or planning to visit this country to be even-tempered, keep themselves out of political discussions and absent themselves from rallies held by terrorist groups ahead of the elections,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, senior German politicians on Sept. 10 commented on the travel warning.

Merkel’s Chief of Staff Peter Altmaier, described the warning on Twitter on Sept. 10 as “a bad joke” and added that “Nazi comparisons offend our honor!”

“Fact is: it’s in Turkey, not here, that journalists who speak their opinion are jailed,” Tweeted Martin Schulz Merkel’s election challenger.

Relations between Ankara and Berlin had recently been at odds over a number of issues, particularly in the wake of the July 2016 failed coup.

Three weeks before the Sept. 24 general elections, the German Chancellor had said during a televised election debate that she would seek an end to Turkey’s membership talks with the European Union.

Before that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had urged Turks in the country not to vote for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the Social Democratic Party (SPD) or the Greens, as they were “enemies of Turkey.”