DW – 20 July 2017, Thursday
Germany is sharpening its policy toward Turkey in response to jailings of journalists and human rights activists. The Foreign Ministry is now warning German citizens that they face risks if they go to Turkey.
Germany’s foreign minister interrupted his vacation on the North Sea to return to Berlin to deliver the most strongly worded statement yet against Turkey’s imprisonment of German journalists and human rights activists.
“We want Turkey to be a part of the West, or at least remain in its current position, but it takes two to tango,” Sigmar Gabriel at a press conference in Berlin. “I cannot make out any willingness on the part of the current Turkish government to follow this path with us. For that reason Germany is forced to reorient its Turkey policy. The first consequences will be new travel advisories for German citizens in Turkey.”
Gabriel said that Germans traveling to Turkey were incurring “risks,” and the ministry website recommended Germans should exercise “heightened caution” when visiting Turkey since “consular access” to Germans detained in Turkey had been “restricted in violation of the obligations of international law.”
Gabriel said that the measures were being taken after consulting with both conservative chancellor Angela Merkel and Social Democratic chairman and chancellor candidate Martin Schulz. Although they stopped short of a travel warning against Turkey, they do represent a new level of chill in relations between the two countries.
‘Obviously unfounded accusations’
The re-calibration of Germany’s Turkey policy came after a court in Istanbul ordered six human rights activists, including Peter Steudtner from Berlin, to investigative custody on Tuesday. Turkey accuses them of supporting terrorism. Gabriel specifically mentioned Steudtner.
“These accusations are obviously unfounded and have simply been dragged out irrationally,” the foreign minister said, adding that Steudtner had taken no position on current Turkish politics and was quite possibly present in the country for the first time.
The Amnesty International representative was arrested earlier this month at a conference in Istanbul while teaching Turkish colleagues about IT security and non-violent conflict resolution. German journalist Deniz Yucel has been held in investigative custody since late February. Seven other Germans are also currently in such custody.
Gabriel said that Germany had showed patience in the ongoing row with Ankara and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, hadn’t responded to incendiary comparisons between the Federal Republic and Nazi Germany and had tried to restart relations with Turkey, but had been “repeatedly disappointed.”
“The government and the coalition parties will be discussing further consequences,” Gabriel said, adding that a range of financial sanctions were also under consideration.
Access to German detainees
On Wednesday, Turkey’s ambassador to Germany was summoned to the German Foreign Ministry and warned that Berlin did not accept the detentions of its citizens. German Justice Minister Heiko Maas has said that Germany needed to take a tougher stance toward Turkey, but cautioned that diplomatic relations also had to be maintained.
“We have to keep in mind that German citizens are sitting in Turkish jails, and we need access to them,” Maas told the DPA news agency. “I think it would be a mistake right now to give Turkey any arguments to deny us that access.”
Turkey has accused Germany of interfering in its internal affairs. There has been speculation that Erdogan is using the German detainees essentially as hostages in an attempt to force Berlin to deport Turkish citizens in Germany whom Ankara considers terrorists.
Other German politicians have called for a range of measures to punish Turkey from general economic sanctions to a cancellation of the deal between the EU and Turkey on refugees.