There is “no reason” for the current diplomatic ice age between Ankara and Germany, Turkey’s top diplomat, Mevlut Cavusoglu, told German news magazine Der Spiegel in an interview published on Saturday.
The two countries have been at loggerheads ever since Turkey launched an unprecedented crackdown on the suspected participants of the failed coup last year. The continuing purge has targeted police officers, soldiers, members of the judiciary, and the media, including several German citizens.
Earlier this year, Turkey held a constitutional referendum to grant more powers to the country’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkish officials tried to reach millions of potential Turkish voters living in Germany and other European countries, but German officials banned pro-Erdogan rallies in many German cities.
In response, Erdogan accused the German government of using “Nazi methods” to stifle the campaign. With tensions escalating, the countries traded blows over various other issues, prompting Germany to move its troops out of the NATO Incirlik air base.
One step, two steps
In the Saturday interview, Cavusoglu defended Erdogan’s Nazi reference.
“He merely responded to attacks from Germany,” Cavusoglu said of his head of state, adding that the Nazi comment was prompted by Berlin’s “hostility.”
“The German government must learn to respect Turkey,” he told Der Spiegel.
At the same time, the Turkish foreign minister said he was ready to work on diffusing tensions.
“If you take one step towards us, we will take two towards you,” he said.
Cavusoglu was less conciliatory on the issue of Deniz Yücel, the German reporter born to Turkish parents near Mainz, Germany. Yücel, who holds both Turkish and German citizenship, was arrested while reporting for Die Welt newspaper from Turkey and accused of “inciting hatred” and “terrorist propaganda.”
Courts to decide on Yücel
In the Spiegel interview, Minister Cavusoglu said Yücel was a Turkish national and suspect awaiting trial.
“The justice system will decide on his guilt or innocence,” he added.
With Germany still negotiating on the new government after last months’ elections, Cavusoglu might soon find himself dealing with another German with Turkish background, the Green Party leader Cem Özdemir.
German media has speculated that Özdemir might be named Germany’s next foreign minister, which would likely cause friction with Ankara. Özdemir is an outspoken Erdogan critic, which earned himself accusations of “treachery” from pro-Erdogan officials.
Özdemir jibes on Twitter
On Saturday, Cavusoglu said that the Turkish government is also ready to work with Özdemir.
“It would be wrong to define relations between the two countries through individuals,” the minister said.
Özdemir commented on the interview on Twitter, saying: “How about Turkey making an important step towards Germany and releasing jailed German citizens?”
Also on Saturday, Germany’s deputy foreign minister, Michael Roth, said that Germany was “ready to talk” with Turkey.
“Still, we cannot stay silent if innocent German citizens, including Deniz Yücel, remain in jail. We need to finally find a solution,” he said.
dj/jlw (Reuters, AP, EPD)