Interview given by Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier to the Bild newspaper on the current situation in Turkey and Syria. Published on 1 August 2015.
Minister, would you be happy to spend your holidays in Turkey at the moment?
Yes, I would. At present, the security situation is critical in the regions close to the Syrian and Iraqi borders, not in Turkey’s traditional holiday regions. Many of my staff and one of my State Secretaries are currently on holiday in Turkey. However, we do recommend that people are careful and regularly consult the travel and security advice on the Federal Foreign Office website.
For days now, Turkish troops have been attacking not only the ISIS terrorists but also Kurds. Is a new conflict breaking out?
With neighbours such as ISIS, the PKK, Syria’s Assad regime and a dozen militias armed to the teeth, the situation in Turkey’s south-east border regions is dangerous. Of course, Turkey has a responsibility to protect its citizens from terror. However, the last thing the already crisis-ridden Middle East needs is another expansion of the military confrontation in the region.
Turkey is a member of NATO. Could NATO, and thus Germany, ultimately be drawn into the the conflict in the east of the country?
We are providing support on two fronts: the fight against ISIS – and all efforts to find a peaceful solution to Turkey’s conflict with the Kurds. An invocation of the mutual defence clause is not on the horizon.
Some observers believe that Erdogan is risking a confrontation with the Kurds purely for domestic policy reasons – to present himself as an uncompromising politician should new elections take place. Do you agree?
No‑one can have an interest in seeing Turkey revert to the neverending cycles of violence of the past – not the Government, nor the Kurds’ political representatives. Turkey must react when the PKK attacks Turkish security forces. However, it shouldn’t tear down the bridges with the Kurds which have been painstakingly built by both sides over the past few years. And it must respect the fact that a Kurdish party has won seats in Parliament.
Reproduced by kind permission of BILD.