Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has signalled he wants to mend fences with the governments of several European nations he’s quarrelled with this year, saying Turkey must “decrease the number of enemies and increase friends.”
In comments published yesterday in Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper, Erdogan described the leaders of Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium as “old friends,” called recent contacts with them “quite good” and noted that they, like Turkey, oppose a controversial US decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“We have no problems with Germany, or with the Netherlands or Belgium,” Erdogan told journalists on his return from a trip to Africa. “On the contrary, those in power there are my old friends. They have wronged me, but that’s another matter.”
Ties between Ankara and some European nations frayed after authorities in several countries prevented Turkish government ministers from holding political rallies to court expat votes ahead of a referendum in Turkey earlier this year over giving Erdogan expanded powers. Erdogan aimed a series of insults at his allies accusing European officials of racism, harbouring terrorists and behaving like “Nazis.”
European nations also have baulked at the deteriorating state of human rights and democratic institutions in Turkey, especially in the wake of last year’s failed military coup. Erdogan’s government embarked on an unprecedented crackdown on opponents, arresting around 50,000 people and purging more than 110,000 public sector workers.
A state of emergency declared after the coup attempt allows Erdogan to rule by decree, often bypassing parliament. Several German or German-Turkish nationals, including a prominent journalist, have been jailed on terror-related charges as part of the crackdown, further damaging ties with Berlin. Turkey blames the coup attempt on followers of US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen. The cleric has denied masterminding it. Erdogan also said he hopes to visit France and the Vatican in the new year.