This was the first trip to Turkey by the Foreign Minister since the failed coup in July. Steinmeier travelled to Ankara on Monday evening (14 November), returning to Germany on Tuesday evening after a long day with difficult talks.
As expected, difficult talks
“It was clear that it would not be possible to resolve the differences of opinion just with a visit and a few talks”, said Steinmeier on Tuesday evening after his talks in Turkey. Prior to that, the German Foreign Minister had an extensive schedule, during which he met the most senior representatives of the Turkish state including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. He also spoke to opposition leader Kemal Kiliçdaroğlu as well as deputies of the pro‑Kurdish HDP and representatives of Turkey’s civil society.
Despite the “as expected, difficult talks” in the Turkish capital, Steinmeier commented that the trip had been useful in order to gain a first‑hand impression of the situation in the country. He said, “The measures taken against members of the opposition and civil society, newspapers, radio and television channels and numerous teachers and officials do not comply with our rule‑of‑law standards by any means and are no longer only concerned with bringing to justice those responsible for the failed coup attempt on 15 July. I made this quite clear in my talks, just as I stressed our willingness to cooperate with Turkey closely and in a spirit of partnership once again on the basis of our European values. That offer still stands. At the end of the day, the Turkish Government has to decide.”
Turkey should remain a key partner
Ahead of the trip, Steinmeier stated that Turkey would remain a key partner for Germany even if relations are difficult at present. It was therefore all the more important to keep the channels of communication open and to seek a dialogue despite the difficulties. In a speech to the Bundestag on Thursday (10 November), Steinmeier said:
I believe that we should send a clear signal to Turkey at these crossroads. We stand for a close bond between Europe and Turkey. We want there to be a close bond between Europe and Turkey. And when I consider the crises and conflicts in Turkey’s neighbourhood, then I, as Foreign Minister, wish to say quite openly that we need a close bond between Europe and Turkey!
The Foreign Minister stressed, however, that the responsibility for the future political direction that Turkey takes lies in Ankara.
Dialogue with politicians and civil society
In Ankara, Steinmeier first of all met his Turkish opposite number Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. They did not shy away from difficult issues. “We condemn the attempted coup”, Steinmeier said on Thursday in the Bundestag. “However, if we analyse the current upheavals in Turkey, then we must also ask ourselves whether what we are observing now, whether the groups of people who are being persecuted at the moment, really have anything to do with the attempted coup or with terrorism – and, above all, we must ask ourselves whether the Turkish Government’s actions are commensurate with the minimum standards of rule‑of‑law procedures.”
Steinmeier stated in the Bundestag that the exchange with civil society and not just talks with political leaders were important. He went on to say that Germany wanted to help strengthen Turkey's civil society through a package of programmes – this was one of the aims of Steinmeier's trip.