Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader and candidate for German chancellor Martin Schulz on Saturday strongly criticized Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over human rights violations, saying he would not be blackmailed on refugee policy, Deutsche Welle reported.
“If you fly to Turkey and make a report, I can’t say whether or not you’ll be in jail the next day. And that definitely is not consistent with European Union principles,” Schulz told DW, describing the human rights situation in Turkey as terrible.
Underlining that if need be, he would also cancel the EU-Turkey refugee deal, the SPD leader said: “But I am not prepared to get down on my knees in front of Erdoğan. We cannot allow ourselves to be blackmailed.”
Schulz’s election rival, 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.
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 Erdoğan and his government accuse of involvement in a 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 SPD, who are trailing the conservatives in opinion polls, had earlier said that all major arms exports to Turkey had been put on hold.