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Turkey’s Erdogan Refuses to Back Down in Feud With Germany

On Friday, a Turkish judge ordered the rearrest of four of those ten, who had been released awaiting trial. Critics say the Turkish judiciary is no longer independent from Mr. Erdogan’s government, after a vast crackdown on opponents that purged around 150,000 public employees, including more than 4,000 judges and prosecutors.

Earlier this week, the German foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, called Mr. Steudtner’s arrest “absurd” and said it showed “that German citizens are no longer safe from arbitrary arrests” in Turkey.

In remarks published in Bild on Friday, the foreign minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, said that if Turkey “doesn’t stop these games, we will have to tell people: ‘You are traveling to Turkey at your own risk, we can no longer provide guarantees.’ ”

Also on Friday, two Germany news channels said that they would no longer run ads that feature the soccer star Lukas Podolski, encouraging investors: “Come to Turkey. Discover your own story.”

The stations, N-TV and N24, told the German news agency DPA they had decided to cancel the ads after Mr. Gabriel’s statement on Thursday questioning the safety of such investments.

The Germany government is also furious about the detainment of nine other German citizens in separate cases, including two journalists, Deniz Yucel and Mesale Tolu. Turkish politicians have also provoked their German counterparts by accusing them of “Nazi practices” and by refusing to allow German parliamentary delegations to visit German soldiers carrying out anti-Islamic State operations from two Turkish military bases.

For his part, Mr. Erdogan is angry that Germany has granted asylum to former Turkish army officers and other officials accused of playing a role in last year’s coup attempt in Turkey. Mr. Erdogan also says that Germany harbors members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K., which has waged an insurgency in southeastern Turkey for several decades.

“The government who is hiding Turkish terrorists in Germany should first explain this,” Mr. Erdogan said on Friday. “Why are they hiding in Germany? How they can explain the material support given to them?”

Another irritant for Mr. Erdogan is the opening of investigations by German prosecutors into German-based representatives of Turkey’s religious affairs directorate. The representatives are accused of spying on Turks living in Germany, home to around 3 million people of Turkish origin.

Members of the Turkish diaspora in Germany were also at the center of a dispute in the spring, when German officials refused to allow Mr. Erdogan’s political party to hold rallies for German-Turks in the run-up to a referendum in April, when Turks voted to expand the president’s powers.

“If it was up to Turkey, actually, Turkey would prefer to remain ‘strategic partners’ forever,” Kurtulus Tayiz wrote in his column in Aksam, a pro-Erdogan newspaper. But he said that Germany and the United States had become the “center of activities that pose both internal and external threats to Turkey’s survival.”

Analysts say that Turkey is running risks by not backing down. German politicians now have less reason to moderate their stance, said Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, the Ankara director for the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a research organization.

While Germany has been reluctant to antagonize Turkey because it relies on Turkey to stem the flow of refugees toward Europe, migration pressures have lessened in the past year, and Turkey is no longer seen as quite so essential. Additionally, as Germany prepares for federal elections, its politicians stand to gain domestically from taking a strong stance on Turkish issues.

“Turkey is playing a game of brinkmanship with the hope that Germany will back down because that is what has happened in the past,” said Mr. Unluhisarcikli. “But that may not be the case this time.”

The spat may not escalate into a total breakdown of relations, or even into an official end to Turkey’s long-delayed application to join the European Union, said Galip Dalay, research director at Al Sharq Forum, an Istanbul-based think tank.

Even if Turkey now has no realistic chance of joining the union, Mr. Dalay said, Ankara is unlikely to want to halt the membership talks entirely, since they provide some reassurance to foreign investors.

“The E.U. process is dead, but the fact it isn’t terminated is beneficial for Turkey,” said Mr. Dalay. “If tomorrow the process is officially terminated, that will have economic consequences.”

Source: NYT > World

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