Merkel: Normalization of ties with Turkey still faces many hurdles

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım give a press conference on February 15, 2018 at the Chancellery in Berlin. Merkel meets Yildirim, a day after he said he hoped that German journalist Deniz Yucel held in Turkey would be freed "soon" -- a move that would ease tensions between the countries. / AFP PHOTO / Stefanie LOOS

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the press on Thursday that said she saw numerous hurdles still in the way of normalization of German-Turkish relations after a meeting in Berlin with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, Deutsche Welle reported.

There has been tension between the two countries over the past year, especially in light of increased powers acquired by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan following a controversial referendum last year. Merkel, however, said, “We want to intensify our contacts.”

While Berlin claims six German citizens are being held in Turkey for political reasons, it was the case of German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel that had attracted much of the attention ahead of the talks as it has been a major reason for diplomatic tension between the two countries.

Yücel, a journalist for Germany’s Die Welt newspaper who was detained on Feb. 14, 2017 as part of an investigation for publishing stories on the leaked emails of Erdoğan’s son-in-law and Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, was arrested by a court on Feb. 27 and sent to Silivri Prison in İstanbul on charges of spreading “terrorist propaganda” and “inciting hatred.”

Merkel was asked about Yücel’s case and replied that she hoped for a fast and fair process. While Yücel’s case had been discussed in the meeting, there was no link between it and other issues under discussion, she said.

“I said during the talks that we hope for a fast and constitutional [judicial] process for Deniz Yücel,” Merkel told journalists on Thursday.

Yıldırım said the Turkish courts had many cases to hear following an attempted coup in July 2016 that had caused delays but added nothing further to his comments earlier in the week.
Yücel’s case was up to the Turkish courts, not the government, the prime minister had said, adding, “I hope his trial will start soon and that it comes to a result.”

In an interview on ARD German television, Yıldırım had said of Yücel: “I hope he will be released soon. I think there will be a development shortly.”

Yıldırım said cases such as Yücel’s should not affect bilateral relations. “We do not want these and similar matters to harm relations between Turkey and Germany.”

On the agenda for the meeting were Turkey-EU relations, bilateral trade and anti-Islam and ultranationalist movements in Europe. Yıldırım said the 3.5 million Turkish nationals living in Germany acted as an ” important bridge” between the two countries.

Yıldırım said he was encouraged by what he called Germany’s “firm stance” against the activities of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Ahead of the talks, Green politician Cem Özdemir had criticized what he saw as an overly friendly approach to Turkey and called for press freedom, democracy and the rule of law to be restored in Turkey before relations with Germany are normalized.

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