Turkey, Germany agree to improve ties

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu visited his German counterpart Sigmar Gabriel on Saturday to restore relations between two countries.

Both ministers said they will “do everything possible to improve the ties between Berlin and Ankara,” Reuters wrote. Disagreements regarding Turkey’s EU accession process remain, it said.

“We can't expect to agree on every question straight away. There are differences of opinion, but we are well-advised to continue our discussion openly and with mutual respect,” Gabriel was quoted by AP as saying.

Turkey and Germany shared similar views on conflict-hit Middle East countries and they were cooperating on humanitarian issues like migration, Çavuşoğlu was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Çavuşoğlu on Friday urged an end to the “megaphone diplomacy” and a “fresh start” based on friendship and cooperation between “equal partners,” AFP reported.

Gabriel also suggested that Western countries should tone down lecturing Turkey on democratic values because it could be counterproductive, it said.

“Constantly accusing each other of betraying values will not get someone out of jail,” Gabriel was quoted by AFP as saying.

Two NATO partners have exchanged strong words over the last year, following Turkey’s arrest of several German citizens in the aftermath of the July 2016 coup attempt.

A high-profile case involves the February jailing of German newspaper Die Welt’s Turkey correspondent Deniz Yücel. A dual citizen, Yücel was charged with “making propaganda of terrorist organisation” and was accused by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as a “spy.” Yücel denies all charges.

Another dual citizen, journalist Meşale Tolu was released on bail on Dec 18, and German activist Peter Steudtner on Oct 26.

Gabriel has labelled the arrested Germans as “hostages,” and said they were jailed for “political reasons.”

Ankara in turn accuses Berlin for hosting followers of the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, whom the Turkish law enforcement holds accountable for plotting the coup attempt. Gülen denies any involvement.

Last April, Erdoğan has slammed the German government of using “Nazi methods” when local municipalities repeatedly denied Turkish politicians’ requests to campaign for votes among the Turkish-German community.

Apart from harsh words, imports from Turkey’s biggest trade partner has dropped by 5.9 per cent in the first nine months of 2017, Reuters reported.

Gabriel on Friday told German magazine Der Spiegel that Germany will not authorise “a large number of arms exports” to Turkey until Yücel's case was resolved.

But on Saturday Gabriel said the German government would consider whether to deliver mine protection gear for armoured vehicles in Turkey, an issue not linked to arrests, Reuters wrote.