Germany accused of blackmail by Turkey
TURKEY/GERMANY: Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his country wouldn’t give in to threats, as relations with its Nato ally Germany slumped to their lowest since World War II.
Cavusoglu was responding to an announcement by German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel earlier yesterday of a ‘‘reorientation’’ of German policy toward Turkey, in which he warned companies against doing business in the country and issued revised guidelines for travellers.
‘‘Germany knows very well that the Turkish people have never bent in the face of any threats or blackmail,’’ Cavusoglu said. ‘‘We will evaluate these threats made to us with the same state seriousness and we will of course respond.’’
The tit-for-tat escalation underscores what Turkey called a ‘‘serious crisis of confidence’’ with Germany that threatens to harm trading ties worth more than $36 billion last year. After months of discord over Nato troop visits, imprisoned journalists and Turkish barbs peppered with Nazi references, tensions came to a head this week over the detention of a German human rights activist.
‘‘This is the worst crisis between Turkey and Germany since World War II, when Turkey and Germany took their places on the opposite camps even though Turkey did not enter the war,’’ Huseyin Pazarci, a professor of international relations who lectures at Near East University in northern Cyprus, said. ‘‘Political and trade relations with Germany have been steadily improving since it began receiving Turkish workers in 1960s.’’
The rapidly escalating situation affects two mutually dependent Nato allies. Germany is Turkey’s largest trading partner, while ethnic Turks make up Germany’s largest minority. More than 6800 German firms are operating in Turkey, according to the GermanTurkish chamber of commerce.
At stake is also the future of a refugee deal between the European Union and Turkey. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was key in pressing for the accord with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan under which Turkey keeps mainly Syrian refugees in the country in return for billions of euros in aid and progress toward EU membership.
But as Erdogan has cracked down on dissent since a failed coup last year – sacking or jailing more than 100,000 supposed followers of the cleric that Turkey says organised the putsch attempt – Germany has been a prime target of his wrath.
The Turkish leader resorted to Nazi references when attacking Germany for stopping his officials from campaigning among Germany-based Turks ahead of a critical referendum, contributing to a 25 per cent decline in German visitors to Turkey so far this year.
This week’s flare-up was prompted by Turkey’s arrest of German rights activist Peter Steudtner and five others on the grounds they were part of a terrorist organisation – an act denounced by Merkel as ‘‘absolutely unjustified’’.
– Washington Post