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President Steinmeier supports Berlin’s tough talk on Erdoğan

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier makes a statement at the Bellevue Presidential Palace in Belin on June 16, 2017, following the death of German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. / AFP PHOTO / John MACDOUGALL

As a war of words between Berlin and Ankara continues over the arrest of German human rights consultant and activist Peter Steudtner in İstanbul, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has expressed support for government statements against Turkey, Deutsche Welle reported on Sunday.

According to the report, in an interview set for broadcast on Sunday, Steinmeier criticized Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and welcomed the German government’s harsh stance toward Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP).

“Many — even those who in this state have worked with him and his party cooperatively in recent years — are now being persecuted,” Steinmeier told public broadcaster ZDF, referring to Erdoğan and the AKP.

“And we cannot tolerate that. It is also a question of the self-respect of our land to send a meaningful message to stop,” he added.

Steinmeier welcomed a letter from Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel to members of Germany’s large Turkish community.

In an open letter, published in German and Turkish in the mass circulation newspaper Bild, Gabriel on Saturday assured the Turkish diaspora that it is part of the fabric of the nation despite the period of difficult relations being experienced by the two countries.

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.

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.

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