Germany may ‘rethink’ ties with Turkey after two more Germans detained by Ankara

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 September, 2017, 1:42am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 September, 2017, 1:42am

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday sharply criticised Turkey’s detention of two German citizens, saying Berlin should react decisively and perhaps rethink its relations with Ankara.

Twelve German citizens are now in Turkish detention on political charges. Of them, four hold dual citizenship. Among them is German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel, whose detention hit the 200-day mark on Friday.

Under the circumstances, Merkel said she did not think it was appropriate to carry out further discussions with Ankara about its participation in a European Union customs union.

“We must react decisively,” Merkel told a business event in the southern city of Nuremberg, noting that Germany had already fundamentally revamped its relations with Ankara.

“Given the last day’s events, perhaps it is necessary to rethink them ever further.”

Germany was not officially told of the two new detentions, which took place at Antalya airport on Thursday, leaving Berlin’s consulate in the coastal city of Izmir to learn of their arrest from “non-state sources”, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Adebahr told a news conference.

Many European citizens have been detained in Turkey over the past year, accused of involvement in last year’s failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whom many accuse of purging opposition under the cover of a crackdown.

“We’re trying to establish what they are charged with,” said Adebahr said. “We must assume that it’s a political charge, suspicion of terrorism, as with the others.”

Diplomats had not been able to contact them, she added, with Friday’s public holiday celebrating the Muslim festival of Eid a possible reason for delays in contacting officials.

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Martin Schulz, a Social Democrat and Merkel’s main challenger in September 24 elections, said Berlin should consider issuing a formal travel warning for Germans heading to Turkey.

The German government in July urged German citizens to exercise caution if travelling to Turkey, but stopped short of a formal travel warning.

Juergen Hardt, a senior member of Merkel’s conservatives, told Die Welt newspaper that a further tightening of the travel guidance “should be seriously considered”.

A travel warning could mark a significant setback for Turkey, which already saw the number of foreign visitors drop to its lowest level in nine years last year. Bookings from Germany accounted for some 10 per cent of Turkey’s tourists this year.