German MFA: ‘Our Relations with Turkey are Currently Being Put to a Severe Test’
HAMBURG, Germany (A.W.)—Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu slammed German authorities at a rally of Turkish citizens in the residence of the Turkish Consul-General in Hamburg on March 7. Cavusoglu accused Berlin of pressuring Turkish citizens in Germany and obstructing campaigns supporting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“This is systematic obstruction, and Germany is applying systematic pressure on our citizens. This is unacceptable. We always want to see Germany as a friend but Germany’s systematic anti-Turkey approach does not suit our friendship,” Cavusoglu said in his address to the Turkish-German community, reported Reuters.
According to several news reports, crowds cheered on the Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister and chanted slogans supporting Erdogan. Cavusoglu accused German authorities of hindering a number of scheduled meetings by shutting down premises, including the building originally scheduled for a meeting with the Turkish-German community.
Tensions between Ankara and Berlin have been growing since the arrest of Turkish-German journalist and publisher Deniz Yücel in Turkey. After responding to a request by Turkish police, Yücel was imprisoned under the charge of espionage on Feb. 14, in an incarceration that has been widely criticized by journalists, politicians, and the German public.
Bilateral relations between the two nations were further strained after German cities decided to cancel several rallies of top Turkish ministers, who were scheduled to speak before representatives of Germany’s three million-strong Turkish community about Turkey’s upcoming referendum on constitutional changes—a referendum, which has been widely criticized for granting President Erdogan wide-ranging executive powers if passed.
“Tonight, we will gather with our citizens in Hamburg. No one can block us from gathering with our citizens, this ban should be lifted… European standards and values allow this,” Cavusoglu was quotes as saying in a Turkish state-run Anadolu news agency report released hours before the March 7 rally.
Erdogan sharply criticized German authorities on March 5 for “undermining the freedom of expression and right to assembly,” after certain cities decided to cancel scheduled rallies. “[These practices are] no different from the Nazi ones of the past,” the Turkish President was quoted as saying.
“The comparison is scandalous of course,” German Foreign Affairs Minister Sigmar Gabriel said, regarding Erdogan’s comments. During a television interview, Gabriel also rejected Cavusoglu’s accusations about systematically blocking the planned events. “In our legal system, local authorities are generally in charge of security issues,” Gabriel told German public television Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen. According to Gabriel, authorities in Hamburg decided to close the building originally scheduled for Cavusoglu’s speech because of a lack of fire security.
Gabriel also noted that Germany’s relations with Turkey are currently being put to a “severe test,” in a guest op-ed in the Berlin-based Bild am Sonntag— the largest-selling German national Sunday newspaper, on March 5. “Should Turkish politicians be allowed to campaign in Germany? Those who want to speak here do not have to agree with us, but they must respect our rules—the rules of the law and decency. And mutual respect means moderation—including in a campaign and on both sides,” Gabriel wrote.
“German-Turkish friendship is stronger than the diplomatic tensions we are currently experiencing,” the German Foreign Affairs Minister went on, adding that the friendship between Germany and Turkey is “too close” to permit long-term hatred and misunderstanding to arise from political differences.
Commenting on Yücel’s arrest, Gabriel noted that German authorities are working on ensuring his release from prison. “Burying channels of communication is not a way to conduct politics. But we also have to stand up for Deniz Yücel. He is a strident, dedicated and passionate journalist. It is wrong and unreasonable to throw Deniz Yücel in prison. We are working hard to secure his release,” Gabriel wrote in his op-ed.
Gabriel told reporters he would raise the issue during his scheduled meeting with Cavusoglu on March 8 in Berlin.