German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she would raise the Turkish parliament’s vote to strip its members of immunity when she meets President Tayyip Erdogan on Monday, voicing disquiet at a measure likely meant to sideline the pro-Kurdish opposition.
Merkel is facing accusations at home that she has become too accommodating of Erdogan as she tries to secure a European Union deal with Ankara to stem the flow of refugees from Turkey into Europe, the bulk of whom have gone to Germany.
“Naturally some developments in Turkey are causing us grave concerns,” Merkel told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Sunday, one day before she meets Erdogan on the sidelines of a UN-sponsored humanitarian summit in Istanbul.
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The approval on Friday by Turkey’s parliament to strip its members of immunity came as Erdogan seeks to prosecute members of the pro-Kurdish HDP, parliament’s third-biggest party.
He accuses the HDP of being the political wing of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) which has waged a three-decade insurgency againt the state. The HDP denies such links and says its parliamentary presence could be all but wiped out if prosecutions go ahead.
“We want that the Kurdish people have their equal place and a good future in Turkey,” said Merkel, who flies to Turkey on Sunday, adding she would raise “all the important questions” with Erdogan.
Critics have accused Merkel of ignoring human rights violations and actions against journalists in Turkey, a candidate for EU membership said.
“Of course there are mutual dependencies, which you could also call a necessity to reconcile interests,” Merkel told the newspaper when asked if the deal had made Europe dependent on Turkey.
The migration deal includes funding to help Turkey care for migrants from the Middle East, Africa and Asia who had hoped to use its shores to take boats to Greece. In exchange, Turkey is required to crack down on people smugglers.
The deal also sets an end-June deadline for the European Union to grant visa-free travel to Turkey. The bloc is expected to miss that date because of a dispute over Turkish anti-terrorism laws, EU officials said this week.
Turkey and the EU have been discussing visa liberalisation since 2013 and agreed in March to go ahead with it as part of the migration deal.
Merkel said Turkey should meet the requirements set in 2013 before the bloc could grant it visa-free travel.
“This is about standards in Turkey and requires changes there,” Merkel said in the interview.
Merkel has also drawn criticism for allowing prosecutors to pursue a case against a German comedian, who mocked Erdogan in a satirical poem suggesting the Turkish head of state engages in bestiality and watched child pornography.
Comedian Jan Boehmermann recited the poem on television in March, prompting Erdogan to file a complaint with prosecutors that he had been insulted. The affair has turned into a diplomatic spat.