Turkish, German foreign ministers strike conciliatory tone

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German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel (C-L)and his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu (C-R) take a walk outside the Kaiserpfalz Imperial Palace in Goslar, central Germany, following talks on January 6, 2018. Germany, home to a three-million-strong ethnic Turkish community, and Turkey try to end a festering crisis. / AFP PHOTO / Tobias SCHWARZ

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu met on Saturday with his German counterpart, Sigmar Gabriel, in Gabriel’s hometown of Goslar, with both sides adopting a conciliatory tone after several years of strained relations, Deutsche Welle reported.

Addressing reporters at a joint press conference, Çavuşoğlu described Gabriel as a “personal friend” and Germany and Turkey as two “proud” nations.

“We are in agreement and both willing to overcome these tensions, these differences, through dialogue,” he said.

Among other issues, Çavuşoğlu signaled Ankara’s interest in renewing talks on the customs union between the EU and Turkey.

Gabriel for his part announced the revival of a joint economy commission that had been put on ice amid the tense relations.

Gabriel said the two officials intended to do everything possible to “find more common ground in the future.”

The ties between the two countries have been strained by myriad issues, including Turkey’s anger over German comedian Jan Böhmermann insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a German resolution on the Armenian genocide and Ankara’s massive crackdown following a failed coup in July 2016. Germany also last year prohibited Turkish politicians from campaigning for a controversial referendum to Turkish voters inside Germany. Erdoğan said Berlin used “Nazi” tactics in blocking campaign rallies.

Most recently Berlin and Ankara clashed over the fate of German citizens arrested in Turkey. The German public was especially outraged over the detention of Die Welt reporter Deniz Yücel, who has spent 10 months in jail without having been indicted.

Without giving details, Gabriel hinted that the subject of Yücel had been brought up. “I can only say that we talked about all topics, including the difficult ones,” he said, answering a question on Yücel. “He is definitely one of them.”

Gabriel also denied recent reports that Berlin was considering halting a delivery of military equipment to Turkey as a means to pressure Ankara to release its prisoners. The German government will soon discuss the planned sale of mine protection equipment for Turkish armored vehicles, Gabriel said.

However, this has “nothing to do with the prisoners in Turkey, absolutely nothing,” he added.

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