Foreign Minister Gabriel met his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu for talks early on Wednesday morning (8 March). Difficult topics were on the agenda, including the constitutional referendum in Turkey and appearances by Turkish politicians in Germany prior to this, as well as the imprisonment of journalist Deniz Yücel.
Gabriel: an open and honest dialogue is needed
After talks with his Turkish counterpart, the Foreign Minister said that their meeting “was good, honest and friendly”, but also “tough and not without controversy”. Growing tensions in German-Turkish relations had recently been the subject of a great deal of discussion, Gabriel continued. “With this in mind, it was good that we met for face-to-face talks today”, he said.
He said that both Ministers agreed that neither side had an interest in inflicting long-term damage on German-Turkish relations but that, on the contrary, it was their common desire to return to a better phase in relations. This would only be possible if both countries engaged in an open and honest dialogue with one another. “There is no alternative to talks”, Gabriel concluded. “This is the only way for us to stand a chance to return to more friendly relations.”
Freedom of expression and the rule of law
Following his talks, Gabriel emphasised that comparisons between present-day Germany and the National Socialist past such as those made in the context of debates surrounding the appearance of Turkish politicians in Germany would not be tolerated. He said that Germany was one of the world’s freest countries, also with respect to the freedom of the press and the freedom of opinion. Çavuşoğlu had himself spoken in Hamburg on the previous evening.
“It is clear that those who want to speak here will always encounter a country that is committed to the freedom of expression”, Gabriel emphasised. At the same time, he added, the rules must be abided by – “the rules of law and decency”.
Helping Deniz Yücel
In this connection, Gabriel reiterated that the Federal Government was emphatically committed to the release of Deniz Yücel, a journalist at the “Die Welt” newspaper who has been held on remand since last Monday. Moreover, he said that it was important for Germany to be granted consular access to Yücel swiftly, as had been pledged to Federal Chancellor Merkel.
People as bridge-builders
Gabriel said that Germany and Turkey were united by a remarkable friendship, particularly at the people-to-people level. “The people have become bridge-builders”, he said – firm foundations for re-establishing good relations with each other.
In closing his remarks, the Minister sent a message to all people with Turkish or dual citizenship in Germany: “In spite of any differences we may have, we must not allow conflicts to be imported from Turkey.” He said that people of Turkish origin had made a major contribution to prosperity in our common country in the area of culture, sport and the economy. “This is your home country. We want to live well and peacefully with each other in this country.”