Germany sharpens tone against Turkey


Germany announced on Thursday several economic measures in an attempt to increase pressure on Turkey amid political tensions between the two countries.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told a news conference in Berlin his government had decided to take a new direction with its Turkey policy, after its attempts to resolve political disagreements with Ankara failed.

His remarks came after opposition parties increased pressure on the government ahead of elections in September, seeking a harsher tone against Turkey, particularly due to the recent arrests of a number of German citizens for alleged support for terrorist organizations.

Gabriel said, from now on, his government would not be in a position to encourage German businesspeople to invest in Turkey, and would not provide investment guarantees for German companies.

Germany's top diplomat also said Berlin would discuss with its European partners whether or not to stop the flow of EU pre-accession funds to Turkey.

He also announced the government had revised its travel information on Turkey, arguing that some German citizens could face legal problems during visits.

He argued that the allegations against the detained German citizens were "unjust", and demanded their release.

A Turkish court on Tuesday remanded in custody a German national, Peter Steudtner, on charges of aiding an armed terrorist organization.

Die Welt's Istanbul correspondent, who has dual German and Turkish nationality, has also been under arrest since February on charges of spreading terror propaganda for the PKK and inciting hatred.

Turkish officials have repeatedly underlined that the country's judiciary is independent, and that political influence on legal procedures was out of question.

Ties between Ankara and Berlin have been strained in recent months as Turkish leaders slammed Germany for turning a blind eye to the activities of outlawed groups and terrorist organizations which are hostile to Turkey.

Despite repeated requests by Ankara to arrest suspects in last July's defeated coup attempt in Turkey, German authorities have turned down extradition requests.

The Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), which organized the foiled coup bid, runs dozens of private schools, businesses and media organizations in Germany.

Since the coup attempt, nearly 4,000 FETO suspects have come to Germany from Turkey and other countries, according to local media reports.

Apart from FETO, the terrorist PKK group also has a large network in Germany and carries out significant propaganda, recruitment and funding activities.

The group has nearly 14,000 followers in the country, according to the BfV, Germany's domestic intelligence agency.

While Turkish leaders have slammed the German authorities for not showing solidarity in the fight against terrorism, German politicians have criticized Turkey over human rights and press-freedom issues.

Ties were further strained this month after Germany barred President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan from addressing Turkish community representatives on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg, citing security concerns.

Last week Ankara postponed a planned visit by a group of German lawmakers to a NATO base in Turkey's central Konya province, saying that such a meeting was not politically appropriate at this time.

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