In Turkey / Türkiye

Deutsche Welle, Aug 17, 2016  (with several video reports)

German and Turkish flags

German and Turkish flags

The German government has distanced itself from a report on Turkey, in which the country is described as a hub of Islamic activity in the Middle East. The report has inflamed already tense ties between the two countries. German officials on Wednesday sought to downplay a leaked government report alleging Turkey was a “central platform” for Islamist groups around the Middle East.

The leak added to a string of rows between Berlin and Ankara, whose Foreign Ministry described the allegations as “a new manifestation of the twisted mentality, which for some time has been trying to wear down our country, by targeting our president and government.”

The leaked German Interior Ministry document released by public broadcaster ARD this week said the “Islamization” of Turkey’s domestic and foreign policy had turned the country into a bastion of Islamic groups. “As a result of the increasing Islamization of Ankara’s domestic and foreign policy since 2011, Turkey has become a central platform for action for Islamist groupings in the … Middle East region,” the document said.

The document was issued in response to a parliamentary question posed by the Left Party (Die Linke).

Berlin in trouble over ‘Islamist hub’ claim

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert declined to directly comment on the report but said Turkey was an indispensible partner in countering the “Islamic State”.

Interior Ministry spokesman Johannes Dimroth said the report was written by the deputy interior minister without the knowledge of the interior minister or foreign minister.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Sawsan Chebli also did not confirm the contents of the document, but said, “On what has been published in the media, we do not share the assessment as a whole.”

According to the ARD report, the document noted Turkey supported the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, the militant Gaza-based Palestinian group Hamas and the armed opposition groups in Syria. It said the ruling AKP and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shared an “ideological affinity” with the Muslim Brotherhood, which is not considered a terrorist organization by the EU or United States.

Erdogan has been a sharp critic of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who ousted the elected Muslim Brotherhood government in a coup. The row has led to tensions in the two Middle Eastern giant’s relations.

Turkey has long had relations with Hamas and views itself as a champion of Palestinian rights. A deal to between Ankara and Israel to restore ties in June hinged in part on Tel Aviv allowing Turkish humanitarian aid into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. The European Union and United States view Hamas as a terrorist organization, while Turkey views it as a legitimate political actor.

Several thousand Turks in Germany marched in support of Erdogan in Cologne last month. [See news compilation on New Cold, Aug 1, 2016.]

In Syria, Turkey denies long-running allegations it and the Gulf Arab states back a host of rebel groups, including hard line Islamist factions.

Turkey has cracked down on reporting on weapons shipments into Syria. A large contingent of the Syrian political opposition in Istanbul is composed of Syrian Muslim Brotherhood members.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry on Wednesday fired back at some of the allegations in the report, saying some in Germany were guilty of double standards for the lack of support in Ankara’s fight against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

“It is obvious that behind these allegations are some political circles in Germany known for their double-standard attitudes in the fight against terror,” the ministry said in the statement. “As a country which sincerely fights against terror of every sort whatever its source, Turkey expects that its other partners and allies act in the same way.”

The European Union, some German officials and rights groups have criticized Turkey’s treatment of Kurds and ongoing military operations against Kurdish militants.

Ankara says ‘Islamist hub’ claim reflects ‘twisted mentality’

German-Turkish relations have been beset by tension in recent months. The German parliament’s recognition of the 1915 massacre of Armenians as genocide caused fury in Ankara, which withdrew its ambassador in Berlin in response.

That row spilled over into the fight against IS, when Turkey in June refused to let German lawmakers visit soldiers at Incirlik airbase in southern Turkey. In another test of relations, Erdogan opened a court case against a Turkish comedian for a satirical song he read on television. [Report here on New Cold on April 13, 2016.]

In yet another source of tension, some German politicians have voiced concern over Turkish meddling in internal German affairs through some three million people of Turkish origin in Germany. This passive concern has gained momentum in the aftermath of the failed July 15 coup attempt.

Germany is relying on Turkey to implement a deal Ankara made with the EU to stem the flow of migrants to Europe. [Refugees squeezed further following EU-Turkey deal and ISIS attacks in northern Syria, news compilation on New Cold, April 17, 2016.]

Turkey has threatened to withdraw from the deal and unleash migrants on Europe if a part of the deal allowing visa-free travel for Turkish citizens to visit the EU is not implemented.

Against this backdrop, already simmering concern in the EU over human rights and the authoritarian direction of the country have mounted following massive purges in the wake of the failed coup attempt.

Related news on Hurriyet Daily News (Turkey):
German officials at odds over reports on Turkey as ‘Islamist hub’, Aug 18, 2016

Turkey asks for explanation from Germany over ‘Islamist platform’ claims, Aug 17, 2016


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