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Awkward relations between Germany and Turkey

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By Euronews
Awkward relations between Germany and Turkey

In February 2016 German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara.

For Merkel it was crucial for Turkey Turkey to curb the flow of refugees into Europe.

In Berlin the pressure was huge: more than one million refugees had arrived in Germany.

In March 2016 the EU struck a deal with Turkey on the migrant crisis.

That was before president Erdogan’s post-coup crackdown.

Ankara summoned Berlin’s deputy ambassador… It’s not happy about how authorities handled a pro-Erdogan rally in Cologne.

At issue is a decision by Germany’s top court to ban Turkey’s president Erdogan from making a video address to demonstrators in Cologne.

June 2016: Bundestag voting motion Armenian killing as genocide

However, bilateral relations will become more tense when the German parliament passes a resolution declaring the 1915 killing of Armenians by Ottoman forces a “genocide.” The vote is welcomed by Armenians, but provokes the wrath of Ankara.

November 2016: German president receives Cumhuryiet’s former editor Can Dündar,

Berlin again sends a strong signal to Ankara when the German president Joachim Gauck receives at the beginning of November the former editor of Cumhurryiet, Can Dündar.

Dündar and another prominent Erdem Gul had fled to Germany after being condemned for espionage after publishing video footage that allegedly showed trucks, belonging to the state intelligence agency, carrying ammunition to Syrian militants.

Since the failed coup in July, the arrests of journalists have increased, accused by the Turkish authorities of links with so-called terrorist organisations, namely the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) and the movement of Preacher Fetullah Gülen.

But Berlin considers such measures against the media an attack on press freedom.

“First concerning Turkey, it is for me and the entire government highly alarming that the freedom of the press and opinion is again and again being restricted,” Chancellor Merkel says.

The next day the Turkish president accused Germany of turning a deaf ear to requests for extradition against suspected organisers of the failed coup.

“Germany, we are concerned by your stance. You are encouraging terrorism,” says President Erdogan.

Germany is home to the world’s largest Turkish community, as well as the largest Kurdish community in Europe, with a million people.

The arrest of pro-Kurdish leaders in Turkey has provoked protests like this one in Cologne.

This raises fears of tensions between the two communities on German soil.

Strained relations

The handling of a pro-Erdogan rally in Cologne in August put further strain on already tense relations between Turkey and Germany.

Ankara summoned Berlin’s deputy ambassador over how authorities handled a pro-Erdogan rally in Cologne.

“We’ve had phases in the past that were bumpy and other phases when things went extraordinarily well. Now we have a bit of a bumpy phase,” the German foreign ministry’s spokesman Martin Schaefer told a regular news conference.

“But I think the relations between Germany and Turkey are so close and so deep… that I am quite confident we will manage again to overcome this not so easy phase of bilateral relations with Turkey,” he added.

At issue is a decision by Germany’s top court to ban Erdogan from making a video address to demonstrators rallying in Cologne at the end of July.

At least 20,000 people rallied there to show their support for Erdogan after July’s failed military coup. German authorities feared having the president address the crowd would only fuel tension within the country’s large Turkish diaspora.

“How come German officials, who talk about freedom of expression, prevent our president from joining an authorized and uneventful rally via teleconference – in other words, prevent the right to freedom of expression,” said Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus.

“This decision makes no sense.”