After his talks with the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel issued the following statement today (8 March):
“I have just held talks with my Turkish counterpart.
I expressly welcome the fact that my Turkish colleague travelled to us here in Berlin for our meeting.
In the last few days, there has been talk time and again of growing tensions between Turkey and Germany, and also, unfortunately, within the Turkish community in Germany, and so it is good that we met today to talk in person.
No matter how you view Turkey’s position or how the Turkish side interprets our position, no matter how great the differences and disputes may be, I believe there is no alternative to talks. Only through talks will we step by step be able to return to normalised and, in fact, to what are very much friendly relations between Germans and Turks.
I wish to say this at the beginning of my remarks.
I personally have been very interested in Turkey for many years and decades now, also in the people from Turkey who live here. I always felt that a remarkably great and mature friendship has emerged between these two nations, between the people. Turkish people in Germany in particular have become important bridge-builders in Turkey. Despite all the difficulties we have today, we must call to mind the great successes of this friendship and cooperation in the efforts to rebuild our country. We must call to mind the cultural, artistic and economic successes that Turkish people have achieved in Germany and also what Germans have achieved in Turkey.
Recalling these good relations is important because they are currently so strained. Moreover, this also demonstrates that this is not normality. Normality is better than the current state of affairs. Returning to this better normality is a desire that both my Turkish colleague and myself share.
At our meeting, we, of course, talked about all manner of difficult and, for the most part, also controversial topics, and about the different opinions on the referendum as well as the imprisonment of Turkish and also of a German journalist and about open consular questions. We also repeatedly discussed the issue that is the appearance of Turkish politicians here in Germany in the context of the campaign for the referendum. We agreed that neither side has an interest in inflicting long-term damage on German-Turkish relations and that we will only be able to master the tests that we currently face by engaging in a sober and respectful dialogue with one other.
Thus, our meeting today was good, honest and friendly as well as open, it was also tough and not without controversy.
I reiterated most clearly that comparisons with the Nazi period and railing against democracy and the rule of law will not be tolerated in Germany. This is the freest country ever to have existed on German soil. We are one of the freest and most democratic countries in the world and I believe that accusations of the sort that we heard in recent days must not be allowed to be repeated. Of course, the Turkish side also pointed out that it too wished to be treated with respect. But I believe that both sides bear responsibility here. There are simply red lines that must not be crossed and this includes comparisons with Nazi Germany.
Secondly, I strongly advocated taking care not to weigh up mistakes or different topics against each other, but to look at matters on a case-by-case basis – this applies especially to the imprisonment of the German-Turkish (Turkish-German) journalist Deniz Yücel.
I made it clear once again that we believe that the Turkish judiciary must respect the principles of a fair trial under the rule of law and that we consider being held on remand for an indefinite period to be wrong and unreasonable. We are therefore emphatically committed to his release and the release of the other imprisoned journalists. Above all else, we want to be granted consular access now. The Turkish Prime Minister made this pledge to the German Chancellor a few days ago.
Turning to the appearance of Turkish Government representatives and politicians in Germany, what we have been saying for a number of days holds true: It is clear that those who want to speak here will always encounter a country that is committed to freedom of expression. However it is also important in Germany to abide by the rules, namely the rules of law and in equal measure the rules of decency, even during an election campaign. I am sure that the Turkish side sees this in exactly the same way and understands that we are committed to the principles of the rule of law and respect.
We agreed that we intend to continue our dialogue as quickly as possible. Only talks such as those we held today can help step by step to bring us back to better relations, to a fair, honest and open partnership. Friendship between the two countries must be our objective and I would like to come back to what I said at the beginning of my remarks, namely that we actually have solid foundations. People from both our countries are acquainted with each other. Today the ITB Berlin opens here. Turkey has been a major tourist destination for many years. I myself travel to the country on a regular basis and was there as a tourist last year. I know that many people have good relations with one another and do not want this to be harmed by politics.
At the end of my remarks, I would like to send a message to those from Turkey with dual citizenship and those with Turkish citizenship in Germany. Regardless of our political differences, we must never allow political conflicts to be imported from Turkey to Germany.
People from Turkey have played an incredible part in building up our country’s prosperity. Much of what we enjoy today would have been unthinkable without the help of Turkish employees, businesspeople and companies. We have been the beneficiaries of riches in the area of culture and sport, as well as in the economy. This means that they are part of our country and this is how we want to see ourselves. They should be citizens of our country enjoying equal rights wherever this is not yet the case. Above all, we want to show that we have great respect for their help and their work to rebuild this country. We want to tell them this: this is your home country. Perhaps not the country that you come from; perhaps not the country where you believe that your cultural roots lie – that does not need to be the case. However, it is our wish that we in this country live well and peacefully together, that we settle our disputes in a democratic way. That we do not treat anyone in a disrespectful manner and that they can always count on the friendship of the Germans. They should know that we are glad to have them here and that they should stay and help to develop this country with us. We will do our utmost to prevent conflicts that occasionally exist between countries or in other countries from driving Germans and Turkish people in Germany apart. I am sure that we will achieve this.”