Friday, July 21, 2017

Time To Stand Up to Erdogan? Germany Debates Tougher Stance Against Turkey

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

The recent arrest of German human rights activist Peter Steudtner marks a turning point in relations between Germany and Turkey. In an election year, the center-left Social Democrats want to see a tightening of sanctions, but Angela Merkel has declined. She wants to save the refugee deal the EU has made with Ankara.

Sigmar Gabriel had been looking forward to a few lovely days with his wife and daughters on Sylt, an island on Germany's North Sea coast. On World Emoji Day, the German foreign minister posted emojis of a beach, the sun and a pictogram of a family on Facebook.

By 6 a.m. the next morning, his idyllic vacation had been interrupted. Gabriel received the news that a Turkish court had ordered the arrest of Peter Steudtner, a German citizen, accused of supporting terrorism. The evidence: none. He now faces pretrial detention that could last for up to five years.

Following a conference call with his staff in Berlin, it was clear -- Steudtner's case was too big to be addressed through the usual diplomatic channels. On Thursday morning, Gabriel was flown in a government jet from Sylt back to the capital city, where he gave a statement. He said that no German citizen could now feel safe in Turkey. The arrest of Steudtner and others on July 5 stands for an "injustice that can strike any German citizen in Turkey," the foreign minister said. With arbitrary arrests, accusations of terrorism against German businesses and a new diatribe by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan against "traitors" and their alleged European supporters, the past week marked a turning point in German-Turkish relations. Up to that point, the German government had hoped to simply endure the many provocations coming from Ankara without changing the fundamental direction of Germany's policies toward Turkey.


No comments:

Post a Comment