Germany, Turkey pledge to thaw icy relations

Germany and Turkey’s foreign ministers on Saturday agreed to pull out all the stops to improve ties that have soured due to disputes over Ankara’s post-coup crackdown and the arrests of German citizens in Turkey.

Meeting in an ornate imperial palace in central Germany, the pair said they were keen to make amends after falling out as Ankara rounded up suspected supporters of a failed 2016 coup, a comedian mocked Turkey’s president and a German-Turkish journalist was detained without charge.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel pointed to historic links between the countries including the role Turkish guest workers played in rebuilding Germany after World War Two, Turkey’s hospitality in taking in German refugees during the Nazi era and the 3 million-strong Turkish community here.

“We’ve both made it our business to do everything we can to overcome the difficulties there have been in German-Turkish relations and to find more common ground in the future by remembering everything that binds us together,” Gabriel said.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said they both believed they could tackle recent escalations in tension through dialogue.

“The two spoke very broadly about their plans to repair relations,”  Berlin Correspondent Jessica Saltz reported after the encounter. “They admitted that they don’t necessarily see eye to eye on all issues but that open and respectful dialogue is important.”

Cavusoglu said one bone of contention was whether Turkey should be allowed to join the European Union – a move that Germany opposes – but he sounded a conciliatory note.

“There is benefit in pushing our disagreements aside and continuing on our path. We should focus on issues that serve as win-win for our countries, like the Customs Union,” he said.

One of the disputes between Berlin and Ankara centres around the arrest of Deniz Yucel, a correspondent for German newspaper Die Welt. Turkish authorities accuse him of spreading propaganda for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). He denies the charge.

Gabriel said he had discussed thorny issues including Yucel’s case with Cavusoglu but did not give details.

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