Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday accused Germany of using tension with Turkey for their upcoming elections, in reaction to recent remarks from Berlin over the arrest of German human rights consultant and activist Peter Steudtner in İstanbul.
“We do not care if people in German politics try to create a ‘market’ ahead of the elections in October,” said Erdoğan upon a question about German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel’s Thursday remarks announcing that Germany was reorienting its Turkey policy due to the arrest of activists and journalists in the country, at İstanbul Atatürk Airport on Sunday before leaving for a Gulf tour.
Calling on German officials not to take any step that would overshadow the Turkish-German partnership in NATO and the European Union accession process, Erdoğan also strongly criticized Berlin for welcoming exiled journalist Can Dündar, without specifically naming him.
“When you harbor terrorists who fled Turkey, even encourage them, rewarding them by allowing to speak during official meetings, welcoming them at the presidential palace, sorry, but our perception of you is not favorable.”
Criticizing Germany for failing to take measures against people affiliated with the faith-based Gülen movement, accused by the government of masterminding a failed coup last year, Erdoğan denied news stories that Ankara is investigating German companies, admitting that the government is targeting some Turkish companies that have links overseas including in Germany.
Gabriel on Thursday said Germany was 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 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.
Gabriel warned German citizens of the risks of traveling to Turkey.
German media reported on Thursday that Berlin also decided to suspend arms deals with Turkey.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble on Friday compared Turkey with the former East Germany in the wake of the growing number of arbitrary arrests in the country.
As part of the war of words, Erdoğan lambasted German officials, saying Berlin is not powerful enough to defame or scare Turkey.
Reacting to news that Turkey had launched investigations into German companies that had invested in Turkey, Erdoğan said: “We will continue with the investments of German companies in Turkey, as has been the case up until now.”
In addition to Steudtner, German journalist Deniz Yücel and seven other Germans are currently in custody in Turkey.