Merkel vows to restrict trade with Turkey over arrests of German citizens

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German Chancellor and Christian Democratic Union's (CDU) main candidate Angela Merkel waves to supporters after addressing an election rally at her constituency's Baltic Sea resort of Binz on September 16, 2017, a week before Germans head to the polls. / AFP PHOTO / John MACDOUGALL

Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday that Germany will have no choice but to restrict its economic ties with Turkey to pressure its NATO partner into releasing German citizens it has imprisoned in politically motivated cases.

Speaking to the Passauer Neuen Presse newspaper in an interview on Saturday, Merkel said, “We will have to further cut back our joint economic cooperation with Turkey and scrutinize projects,” a Reuters report said.

Berlin’s relations with Ankara are strained by Turkey’s crackdown on government critics after a failed coup last year. Germany and its partners in the European Union say the crackdown undermines democracy.

Turkey and Germany are also at odds over Berlin’s refusal to extradite asylum seekers Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government accuse of involvement in the botched coup against him.

Germany has been angered by Turkey’s arrest of around a dozen German citizens, including German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel, who has been held for more than 200 days.

Merkel, whose conservatives are expected to win a federal election in Germany on Sept. 24 and secure her a fourth term in office, said on Tuesday Germany would restrict some arms sales to Turkey.

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), who are trailing the conservatives in opinion polls, had earlier said that all major arms exports to Turkey had been put on hold.

Merkel said during a televised debate earlier this month that Turkey should not become a member of the European Union – Turkey’s largest trading partner with which it has a customs union.

She said she would talk to Germany’s EU partners to reach a compromise on ending Turkey’s accession talks with the bloc.

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