German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Thursday that he “cannot comprehend comments made by [Turkish President] Erdoğan” in which he called Germany a haven for terrorists.
Speaking at a press conference, Steinmeier said, “Turkey is and will remain an important country in the region in relation to the crises in Syria and Iraq,” and added he “cannot comprehend the comments made by Erdogan about the security situation in Germany.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, while delivering a speech during the Living Human Treasures awards ceremony at the presidential palace in Ankara on Thursday, accused Germany of becoming the “backyard” of members of the Gülen movement, who are blamed by the Turkish government for a failed coup attempt on July 15 in Turkey.
“Though we wish to have a close and constructive relationship with Turkey, let us not mince words. From our point of view, there are reasons to be concerned about threats to freedom of the press and freedom of opinion, and Germany will not be silent about it,” Steinmeier said.
Erdoğan said that Germany had refused to extradite alleged members of “FETÖ,” a derogatory name coined by the Turkish government to describe the Gülen movement, inspired by US-based Turkish scholar and Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, who Ankara has accused of masterminding the attempted coup in July.
While Gülen has denied any involvement in the coup, Erdoğan and Turkish authorities launched a witch-hunt against Gülen sympathizers in Turkey that led to more than 120,000 dismissals from state jobs, over 74,000 detentions and over 34,000 arrests since July 15.
Erdoğan also said Germany had for years harbored militants and organizations tied to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as well as the far-left DHKP/C. The EU has designated both groups terror organizations.
“We are concerned that Germany, which for years took the PKK and DHKP/C under its wing, has become the backyard of FETÖ. As I have always said, terror groups are like scorpions: Sooner or later they will bite whoever carries them on their back,” Erdoğan added.
More than 140 journalists, are now in Turkish prisons on charges of links with Gülen movement and PKK.
Most recently, detention warrants were issued for 15 journalists from the Cumhuriyet daily, including its present Editor-in-Chief Murat Sabuncu and his predecessor Can Dündar, who is now in Germany, on charges of aiding the PKK and “FETÖ.”