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“I remain a friend of the Turkish people, both in Germany and Turkey”

Guest article by Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel in “Bild am Sonntag” (5 March 2017)

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Our relations with Turkey are currently being put to a severe test. 

At a time when these relations seem to be dominated by what separates us, it may be difficult to underline what unites us. But we cannot allow the foundations of the friendship between our countries to be undermined.  I feel a profound connection to this wonderful, yet sometimes difficult, country. This connection stems from friends and family, many trips, and countless encounters and memories. But I am very concerned that the close friendly relations between so many people in both countries could deteriorate. 

So what can we do? Ceasing our criticism of the developments in Turkey is certainly not an option. Our experience of détente policy teaches us to adopt a firm position and to express it clearly. This position is the rule of law, freedom of opinion, the protection of human rights, and democratic order. 

Burying channels of communication is not a way to conduct politics! But we also have to stand up for Deniz Yücel. He is a strident, dedicated and passionate journalist. It is wrong and unreasonable to throw Deniz Yücel in prison. We are working hard to secure his release. And even if criticism is necessary, we must not allow ourselves to be fooled by those who want to take their anger out on German-Turkish relations as a whole for all the wrong reasons. We are well advised not to use the difficult topics that stand between us as grounds for retaliation. 

Should Turkish politicians be allowed to campaign in Germany? Those who want to speak here do not have to agree with us, but they must respect our rules – the rules of the law and decency. And mutual respect means moderation –  including in a campaign and on both sides. 

German-Turkish friendship is stronger than the diplomatic tensions we are currently experiencing. The friendship between Germany and Turkey is too close to allow lasting hatred and incomprehension to arise from differences of opinion on political issues.

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