Relations between Germany and Turkey are again on life support. The latest theme of frustration is Peter Steudtner, a human rights activist arrested in Turkey on July 5 during an Amnesty International workshop, together with a Swedish colleague and four Turkish activists.
The German Foreign Ministry laid out harsh words for the government: “It was necessary to communicate to the Turkish authorities all the indignation and misunderstanding of the German government in the case of Steudner and other activists. Germany requested his immediate release and full access to consular services. The allegations of links to terrorism are clearly invented, unless Amnesty is now absurdly considered a terrorist organization.”
Minister Sigmar Gabriel announced a change in Turkish-German relations. “We want Turkey to continue to be part of the West, but we do not see any effort by the Turkish government,” he said. “Germany is therefore forced to review its policy toward Turkey.”
While previous notices had addressed only certain sensitive categories, a new notice was issued to all German nationals in Turkey alerting them that they may be subject to arbitrary judicial actions and possibly prevented from accessing consular services, “restricted by the Turkish authorities in breach of international law.”
Gabriel announced that financial measures are being considered, in line with the new foreign policy. “I do not see how the German government can continue to guarantee the investments of our companies in Turkey when there is a threat of arbitrary expropriation dictated for political reasons.”
This is a direct reference to cases like Ozel Sogut, a German businessman detained for alleged links to Imam Gülen’s network, whom the Turkish government accuses of the 2016 coup attempt. The tension is heightened by the presumed existence of a list of over 60 German companies that the Turkish government has forwarded to Berlin suspecting them of links with Gulenists.
The German press has also launched the heavy accusation that Erdogan has offered an exchange of prisoners: Deniz Yucel, a journalist in prison since February with charges of terrorism, in exchange for two Turkish generals who have sought political asylum in Germany.
Gabriel denied those reports, but the press and world of German diplomacy seem to take it seriously. Bild and Faz cited sources in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, while there are indirect confirmations from Turkish political circles, where there is a widespread opinion that the failure to release German citizens is a natural consequence of Berlin’s refusal to meet Ankara’s extradition requests.
“We believe that these unfortunate statements represent an internal political move aimed at the upcoming elections in Germany,” said Turkish government spokesman Ibrahim Kalin. “It is not possible to make statements that are intended to confuse the economic environment for political purposes. ”
Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek said that “the press releases stating that Turkey is investigating companies like Daimler and Basf are completely false.”
The disagreement between Turkey and Germany was already blown by the ban on some German members of the Bundestag, whom Ankara believes are close to PKK, to visit the Turkish bases where German soldiers are stationed. Germany decided to move its troops to Jordan. Also at risk is the agreement on migrants, which was devised by Germany.
About 450 Turkish military men have applied for asylum in Germany, and 22 German citizens are imprisoned in Turkish prisons, of whom six are accused with charges of terrorism.