German Minister Addresses Turks as EU Reacts to Diplomatic Spat

  • Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel writes open letter on dispute
  • Germany, Turkey at odds over arrests; EU official weighs in

Germany’s foreign minister penned a memo to Turks defending his government’s actions, the latest move in a diplomatic feud between the countries that also saw Germany getting support from the European Union.

Sigmar Gabriel published an open letter to German Turks in both languages in Saturday’s edition of the popular Bild newspaper, saying the government “can’t just sit idly by” and has to protect its citizens after Turkey’s jailing of German human rights activists and two journalists. Meanwhile, European Union Commissioner Johannes Hahn said Ankara is on a “destructive course” and backed Germany in an interview with the newspaper Die Welt.

Sigmar Gabriel

Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

“Your home is in Germany -- but for many of you also in Turkey,” Gabriel wrote in his letter. “Friendship between the Germans and Turks is a great treasure,” he said. “But now, respectable German citizens are being thrown in jail.”

“We are going to review the cooperation and especially the economic support for Turkey,” said Gabriel. “What you should know is: none of this is aimed at the people in Turkey and our fellow citizens with Turkish roots in Germany.”

The dispute between the countries’ governments escalated Friday after a Turkish judge ordered the re-arrest of four human-rights campaigners from Germany. Journalists are also being held. German companies including Daimler AG, Deutsche Bank AG, Siemens AG and Volkswagen AG have exposure to Turkey with operations or manufacturing there, and the German government depends on the country to help stem the flow of migrants into Europe.

Backed by Chancellor Angela Merkel, Gabriel announced a “re-orientation” of Germany’s Turkey policy on Thursday and issued travel warnings to Germans. EU Commissioner Hahn said Turkey is moving “farther and farther away from European standards” and called Germany’s reaction “understandable” amid Turkey’s arrest of human-rights activists, journalists and others under “dubious pretensions.”

Munich’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported on Saturday that Germany’s desire to halt 4.45 billion euros ($5.2 billion) in payments to Turkey under an EU program for countries aiming to join the union poses a legal challenge, in part because the transfers through 2020 are tied to negotiations about Turkey’s entry into the bloc. While talks have stalled, the country is officially still a candidate for membership.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported on Saturday that the German government is reviewing arms deals with Turkey, citing an Economy Ministry spokeswoman as saying that orders were being put up for review.

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