NATO chief urges German, Turkish FMs to resolve rift
Air base row
BRUSSELS, July 17, (Agencies): NATO’s Secretary General spoke to the Turkish and German foreign ministers last week to urge them to resolve their differences over visits to Turkish air bases, part of a wider row between the two allies.
Germany has refused to extradite asylum seekers Turkey says were involved in last year’s coup attempt, Berlin is demanding the release of a Turkish-German journalist and Ankara has refused to let German lawmakers visit soldiers at two air bases.
German soldiers contribute to a NATO air surveillance mission at Konya, 250 kms (155 miles) south of the Turkish capital Ankara, and its troops stationed at another air base, in Incirlik, have already been moved to Jordan.
NATO said Jens Stoltenberg had called Sigmar Gabriel and Mevlut Cavusoglu on Friday to ask them to settle the disputes. “We hope that Germany and Turkey are able to find a mutually acceptable date for a visit,” a NATO spokesman said.
Germany’s armed forces are under parliamentary control and Berlin says the lawmakers must have access to its soldiers.
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel says a dispute with Turkey over a visit by lawmakers to air crews at a NATO base is “decidedly unfortunate” and Berlin will work with NATO to defuse it. Ankara blocked a visit planned Monday to German troops serving on AWACS surveillance planes in Konya. It asked for a delay, citing the tense state of German-Turkish bilateral relations.
Germany is moving aircraft stationed on a bilateral basis at Turkey’s Incirlik base after a dispute over lawmaker visits there. Some lawmakers are urging a withdrawal from Konya if Ankara doesn’t relent.
Merkel told ARD television Sunday: “Before we draw conclusions, we should first wait for talks and discuss these things with NATO’s help.” She made clear Germany would reject any demands linked to asylum applications by Turks.
Turkey must stick to democratic values:
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker on Sunday urged Turkey to uphold democratic values if it hopes to join the European Union, after a year of purges following a coup bid.
Juncker’s comments came a day after Turkish President Recept Tayyip Erdogan gave a hardline speech to parliament on the anniversary of the attempted coup, following mass rallies in Ankara and Istanbul.
“Whoever wants to join the European Union is joining a union of values,” Juncker wrote in an op-ed for German weekly Bild Sonntag.
“Europe’s hand remains outstretched,” he added, but it expects that “Turkey too should clearly show its European colours and emphatically take basic European values to heart.”
In his speech, Erdogan vowed to sign any bill lawmakers pass on reintroducing the death penalty — seen as a red line that would shut down Turkey’s hopes of joining the EU.
“We will chop off the heads of those traitors” he told a crowd of hundreds of thousands in Istanbul.
The European Commission is in charge of accession negotiations for prospective new members, with Turkey’s dossier largely frozen since last July’s violence.
In his article, Juncker warned in particular against the detention without trial of journalists including Deniz Yucel of German daily Die Welt.
This was “in no way compatible with a union of human rights, press freedom and the rule of law,” he said.
Following last year’s coup bid, Erdogan embarked on the biggest purge in Turkey’s history, arresting 50,000 people and sacking almost three times as many.
He also shored up his position by winning a referendum on enhancing his powers earlier this year.
Turkish govt seeks extension of emergency:
The Turkish government asked parliament on Monday to extend emergency rule for another three months, almost a year after it was imposed in the wake of last July’s failed military coup.
The request is expected to be approved by parliament, where President Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party has a comfortable majority. It followed weekend ceremonies to mark the anniversary of the abortive coup in which around 250 people were killed.
Since emergency rule was imposed on July 20 last year, more than 50,000 people have been arrested and 150,000 people have been suspended in a crackdown which Erdogan’s opponents say has pushed Turkey on a path to greater authoritarianism.
The government says the purge is necessary to confront security challenges facing Turkey and to root out supporters of the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen who it says was behind the coup attempt. Gulen has denied any involvement.
In a series of public ceremonies to mourn people killed in the coup attempt and celebrate those who thwarted it, Erdogan defiantly stepped up his condemnation of the European Union and said he would bring back the death penalty if parliament approved it.
Ties with the West were strained when European governments voiced alarm at the scale of the crackdown, which continues. Another 7,000 police, civil servants and academics were dismissed last week according to a decree published on Friday.
A statement from Prime Minister Binali Yildirim’s office said the cabinet requested that parliament extend emergency rule by three months from Wednesday.
Turkey detains 115 more people:
TTurkish authorities have ordered the detention of 127 people on suspicion of links to the attempted military coup a year ago, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.
In a report late on Sunday, Anadolu said 115 of the suspects including businessmen, midwives and journalists had so far been detained in operations in the northwestern province of Tekirdag. It said the remaining suspects were being sought by police.
The suspects were believed to be users of ByLock, an encrypted messaging app the government says was used by the network of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara blames for orchestrating the abortive coup, Anadolu said. Gulen has denied involvement in the attempted military takeover.
In the aftermath of the putsch, some 150,000 people have been sacked or suspended from jobs in the civil service and private sector and more than 50,000 were detained for alleged links to the putsch, alarming Turkey’s Western allies and rights groups, who say President Tayyip Erdogan is using the coup as a pretext to muzzle dissent.