Interview given by Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier to the Peiner Allgemeine Zeitung, published on 10 September 2016
Mr Steinmeier, in your capacity as Foreign Minister you are often out and about in the world. How great is the threat posed by international terrorism?
The world has changed significantly, and with it the security situation. The major conflicts, in Ukraine and the Middle East, are not far from us. The consequences of all these crises and conflicts are also reaching us, in the form of the refugees and also with new threats, including that of Islamist terrorism. Fortunately we have so far been spared major attacks, but of course we have to protect ourselves and are working flat out to ensure this is the case.
It has just been announced that members of the Bundestag are now permitted to visit İncirlik Airbase in Turkey again. How did you resolve this problem?
I welcome the fact that the Defence Committee is now able to travel to Turkey and visit our soldiers in İncirlik. We have a great deal in common with Turkey, but also some differences of opinion. For this reason I think friction with Ankara will continue in connection with the issue of visa‑free travel, as well as investigation of the attempted coup and regard for principles in a state based on the rule of law. But this is at least a tentative signal and a small step forward. We were able to convince Turkey that a decision on a foreign mandate cannot be taken without permission to visit. Yet amid all difficulties we must not forget that Turkey is a key country for us. There will be no peace in the Middle East without constructive cooperation by Turkey. It is in our interests to work seriously to improve our relations. It is my wish, and I sense that a willingness exists, for Turkey to participate in finding solutions as a constructive partner.
The many wars and conflicts in the world are frightening people – the terrible images from Syria particularly leave people lost for words. How do you handle suffering on this scale?
The images and, to an even greater extent, my visits to the region and conversations with people in the refugee camps, who have barely escaped with their lives, don’t leave you unmoved, even if you have had to deal with crises and conflicts for many years. We have not only a political but also a moral obligation to put an end to the dying and killing. I hope that the talks between Washington and Moscow will finally produce concrete results in the coming days.
Interview conducted by Thomas Kröger.