German foreign minister expresses concern over freedom of expression in Ankara

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ANKARA, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 15 : Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (R) and German Minister of Foreign Affairs Frank-Walter Steinmeier (L) hold a joint press conference after their meeting in Ankara, Turkey on November 15, 2016. Fatih Aktas / Anadolu Agency

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier expressed concern about pressure on freedom of expression and a wave of arrests that have become part of daily news reports in Turkey, during a visit to Ankara on Tuesday,

While expressing “serious concern about freedom of opinion,” Steinmeier rejected the idea of suspending European Union membership talks with Turkey. Following Turkey’s attempt to reinstate the death penalty, which is against EU membership criteria, leading EU officials suggested canceling the negotiation process with the candidate country. Just a day before the German foreign minister’s visit, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan suggested a referendum on EU membership, in a strong rebuke to European Parliament President Martin Schulz.

Following a meeting with his counterpart, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Steinmeier also praised the Turkish people’s courage and efforts to defeat a coup attempt on July 15.

Steinmeier expressed interest in improving relations with Turkey as the two countries are “connected by a long history, countless family ties” which cannot be put at risk, according to Twitter messages from the German foreign ministry regarding the meeting.

Steinmeier also pointed to the cooperation between Germany and Turkey to find a political solution to the war in Syria and the fight against terrorism.

Bilateral relations between Turkey and Germany have been strained as President Erdoğan, several ministers and pro-Erdoğan media accuse Germany of harboring terrorists. Even exiled journalist Can Dündar is considered a terrorists according to the Erdoğan camp. Erdoğan has also criticized Germany for welcoming asylum requests from Gülen movement sympathizers who are being persecuted in their home country.

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