German deputy Norbert Röttgen on Tuesday said Turkey is in need of Europe’s support to sustain its economy, in an apparent reaction to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s threat to release jailed Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters and send them to Europe, Deutsche Welle Turkish service reported.
Röttgen, who is also the foreign policy spokesperson for the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU), the major coalition partner in the German government, slammed Erdoğan’s thinly veiled threat in response to the EU’s latest sanctions over Turkish drilling activities in disputed waters off Cyprus.
He underlined that Europeans and Germans would not accept blackmail dominating the relationship and that “they need to show Erdoğan that in no way will they deal with him at that level.”
“We have a strategic interest in Turkey as a gateway to the Middle East, and we are not trying to hide it,” Röttgen said. “But at the same time, it is obvious that Turkey needs Europe and Germany in order to remain standing economically.”
“We should continue to be fair to Turkey, watch out for our interests, but also clearly demonstrate the boundaries, the rules of the game,” he said. “There should be no doubt in Erdoğan’s mind that his actions such as the unlawful invasion of neighboring Syria or the illegal natural gas drilling off Cyprus are unacceptable for us,” adding that it is indicative of how far from European values Erdoğan has drifted since the blackmail was his response to a legal argument.
Earlier on Tuesday Erdoğan said Turkey could release jailed ISIL fighters and send them to Europe a day after his country began its controversial policy of deporting foreign jihadists in its custody.
Erdoğan’s statement came a day after the EU decided to impose sanctions on Turkey over its drilling for gas off Cyprus.