Merkel aide sees Turkey, Germany overcoming rift in 2018


Solving problems between Germany and Turkey is in the interest of both countries, and officials continue discussions on concrete issues, a close aide to German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday. Peter Altmaier, the chief of staff of the Federal Chancellery and the federal minister for special tasks, made the remarks during a visit to the Turkish Embassy in Berlin. “2017 has been a difficult year in German-Turkish relations. Now we are talking about and discussing very concrete issues with our counterparts,” Altmeir said. “We all have an interest in finding solutions,” he told reporters at the embassy, where he visited a photo exhibit on Ottoman-German relations in the 19th century.

Chief of Staff of the German Chancellery, Peter Altmaier, stressed that Germany and Turkey have a century-plus history of ties, calling the exhibit a good example of their multifaceted relationship.

He added that despite political differences between Berlin and Ankara on several foreign policy and domestic issues, Turkey remains an important country.

“We as Europeans have an interest to contribute, together with Turkey, to the peace and stability in the Middle East,” he said.

Ties between Ankara and Berlin have been strained since the foiled coup attempt in Turkey last year, as Turkish leaders slammed Germany for not showing strong solidarity with the government. Turkish politicians also accused Germany of ignoring activities of outlawed groups and terrorist groups hostile to Turkey. German politicians, on the other hand, stepped up their criticisms of Ankara, especially before their general elections in September, over the arrest of around a dozen German citizens, including a reporter, a translator and a human rights activist, on suspicions of aiding and abetting terrorist groups.

Turkish officials repeatedly underlined the independence of the Turkish judiciary and denied any political influence over cases involving German citizens. German politicians also raised concerns over human rights issues amid sweeping probes by Turkish authorities after the foiled coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Nearly 80,000 civil servants have been suspended from duty for suspected ties to the Gülenist Terrorist Group (FETÖ) and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gülen, who orchestrated the defeated coup, which took 250 lives and wounded some 2,200 people.

Germany, which is home to 3 million Turkish-Germans, is among the countries where FETÖ loyalists have managed to organize a large network, including dozens of businesses, private schools and media organizations.

Nearly 4,000 suspected FETÖ members have traveled to Germany since last year’s coup attempt, according to the group’s members’ statements on local media. Despite Ankara’s objections, dozens of suspected FETÖ members, including former soldiers and officials, have been granted asylum by German authorities. Apart from FETÖ, the continued activities of the PKK terrorist group in Germany have caused friction between Ankara and Berlin. Turkey has long demanded stricter measures against the PKK’s propaganda, recruitment and fund-raising activities in Germany. The group has nearly 14,000 followers in Germany, according to German domestic intelligence Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV).

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