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‘You belong here’, Germany tells Turks as row with Ankara rages

"However difficult the political relations between Germany and Turkey, one thing is clear: you, people of Turkish roots in Germany, belong here with us, whether you have a German passport or not," German Finance Minister Wolfgang Gabriel wrote in Saturday's open letter.

By: Reuters | Berlin | Updated: July 22, 2017 8:34:58 pm
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Germany sought on Saturday to reassure the country’s three million people of Turkish descent it would stand by them as a row with Ankara escalates, saying they were not the target of changes to government policy on Turkey. In a letter published in German and Turkish in daily newspaper Bild, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said Germany had no quarrel with Turkish people in either country but could not stand by as “innocent” German citizens were jailed.

On Friday, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble compared Turkey’s detention of six rights activists, including a German, to the authoritarian former communist East Germany. “However difficult the political relations between Germany and Turkey, one thing is clear: you, people of Turkish roots in Germany, belong here with us, whether you have a German passport or not,” Gabriel wrote in Saturday’s open letter.

“We have always striven for good relations with Turkey, because we know that good relations are important for you (German Turks),” he added. He said Germany would review cooperation and especially economic aid for the fellow NATO member and campaign for Europe to take a clear position on Ankara. Gokay Sofuoglu, chairman of the Turkish Community in Germany, welcomed Gabriel’s conciliatory words. “We must not let ourselves be driven apart here in Germany. People with Turkish roots need to focus on Germany,” he told Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

‘UNACCEPTABLE AND UNBEARABLE’

Bilateral tensions were already high before the activists’ arrests after recriminations during an April referendum on extending President Tayyip Erdogan’s powers and a pullout of German troops from a Turkish air base that began this month.

The arrests are part of a sweeping crackdown across Turkish society since a failed coup against Erdogan last year. German officials are also increasingly concerned at what they say is large-scale covert activity by Ankara’s security services among Germany’s Turkish diaspora.

Germany’s head of domestic intelligence said on Friday Turkish agencies were carrying out influence operations in Germany, including targeting opponents of Erdogan. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Bavarian ally, Horst Seehofer, told Welt am Sonntag the financial aid Turkey receives as part of the European Union accession procedures should be cut off.

Seehofer, leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU) that has long been sceptical about Turkey joining the EU, said the idea of the country becoming a full member was “well and truly over” and developments there were “unacceptable and unbearable”. Germany has warned citizens who travel to Turkey they do so at their own risk and on Saturday the radical Left party urged the government to stop deportations in view of the arrest of government opponents.

“If the German Foreign Ministry warns against going on holiday in Turkey, then there needs to be an end to deportations of Turkish citizens,” party co-leader Bernd Riexinger told Die Welt newspaper.

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