Germany’s Frank-Walter Steinmeier used his first speech as president to issue a sharp warning to Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan, accusing him of destroying everything Turkey has achieved in recent years and damaging ties with its partners.
Ankara’s relations with Germany and other European countries have been strained due to these countries’ refusal to allow Turkish ministers to conduct campaign rallies for an upcoming referendum in Turkey, which will grant Erdoğan greater powers.
“The way we look [at Turkey] is characterized by worry, that everything that has been built up over years and decades is collapsing,” Steinmeier said on Wednesday in his inaugural speech in the largely ceremonial role.
“President Erdoğan, you are jeopardizing everything that you, with others, have built,” he said, adding that he would welcome “credible signs” of easing the situation.
President Erdoğan has repeatedly accused Germany of using Nazi tactics to ban ministerial appearances and has caused anger in Germany by jailing German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel, who works for the German Die Welt newspaper.
“But end the unspeakable Nazi comparisons!” Steinmeier said. “Do not cut the ties to those people who want partnership with Turkey! Respect the rule of law and freedom of the media and journalists! And release Deniz Yücel.”
Yücel, who was detained in Turkey on Feb. 14 as part of an investigation for publishing stories on the leaked emails of President Erdoğan’s son-in-law and Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, was arrested by a court on Feb. 27.
Erdoğan has rejected Germany’s calls to release the journalist, saying that he is actually a “terrorist” and “agent.”