German FM says Germany forced to reorient its Turkey policy

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German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has said his country is being forced to reorient its Turkey policy in the wake of the arrest of human rights activists and journalists in the country.

Six human rights activists, including Amnesty International’s (AI) Turkey Director İdil Eser and German human rights consultant Peter Steudtner, who were detained on July 5 during a workshop at a hotel on İstanbul’s Büyükada, were put in pre-trial detention by an İstanbul court on Tuesday.

Interrupting his vacation to return to Berlin for a statement, Gabriel warned German citizens against the risks of travelling to Turkey while explaining the need for Germany to reorient its Turkey policy.

“We want Turkey to be a part of the West, or at least remain in its current position, but it takes two to tango. … I cannot make out any willingness on the part of the current Turkish government to follow this path with us. For that reason Germany is forced to reorient its Turkey policy. The first consequences will be new travel advisories for German citizens in Turkey,” Gabriel said at a news conference in Berlin on Thursday.

Criticizing the arrest of human rights defenders on terror charges, the German foreign minister said: “These accusations are obviously unfounded and have simply been dragged out irrationally.”

Gabriel said he had been “repeatedly disappointed” even though he tried to improve relations with Turkey and showed patience despite increased tensions.

“We need our policies towards Turkey to go in a new direction. … We can’t continue as we have done until now. … We need to be clearer than we have been until now so those responsible in Ankara understand that such policies are not without consequences,” Gabriel told reporters.

In addition to Steudtner, German journalist Deniz Yücel and seven other Germans are currently in custody in Turkey.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is believed to be detaining German nationals to force the deportation of Turkish asylum seekers, who Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accuses of having mounted a botched coup attempt on July 15, 2016, from Germany.

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