German FM Visits Turkey Amid Rising Tensions

ISTANBUL, TURKEY � Amid rising tensions between Turkey and the European Union, Germany's foreign minister is visiting Ankara. Berlin has been at the forefront in raising concerns over Turkey's ongoing crackdown on political opponents and the media following July's failed coup, though Ankara appears ready for a showdown.

After meeting Tuesday, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier admitted talks with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, had not been easy. Steinmeier reaffirmed his country's support for Ankara's bid to join the European Union, however, saying it is up to Turkey to decide its progress.

Some EU members are calling for membership talks to be frozen because of growing concerns over Turkey's crackdown in the wake of the failed coup. Since then, more than 120,000 people have been dismissed from their jobs and 33,000 arrested, including more than 100 journalists.

Crackdown concern

Steinmeier said Berlin is seriously concerned about the suppression, but he stressed the concern should not be seen as interfering in the judiciary.

Cavusoglu wanted to send a clear message. According to him, an EU foreign minister says daily, "Let us throw Turkey out, let us throw them out of the negotiations, let us throw them out of NATO."

Cavusoglu went on to say Turkey does not deserve such treatment and that it is fed up with what he called an approach that humiliates Turkey. He said it is up to the people to decide what to do.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has indicated Turkey might hold a referendum on whether to continue EU membership talks.

PKK fight

Cavusoglu accused Germany of failing to cooperate in Turkey's battle against the Kurdish separatist group the PKK. He said Turkey had presented more than 4,000 files to Berlin in relation to PKK activities in Germany, and it had received replies to only four of them.

Steinmeier said he was unaware of the requests.

The tough language was not unexpected. Before Steinmeier's visit, Cavusoglu boasted of twice refusing to accept the German foreign minister's phone calls, saying Germany should know its place.

While the ministers spoke, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim delivered an equally robust message to the European Union during a parliamentary address. He said Brussels has to decide whether it is with Turkey or Turkey's enemies, as he ruled out EU calls for reform to the country's anti-terror laws.

The increasingly tough language is widely perceived as Ankara preparing for a confrontation over the future of its EU bid, and the regional bloc's stance toward Turkey's crackdown.

Source: Voice of America