Germany vows economic steps against Turkey as row escalates

Germany on Thursday vowed stinging measures hitting tourism and investment in Turkey and a full ‘overhaul’ of their troubled relations

The German foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, speaks to the media after the arrest in Turkey of another German citizen on charges of supporting terrorism
The German foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, speaks to the media after the arrest in Turkey of another German citizen on charges of supporting terrorism

Germany’s foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel has announced a significant “reorientation” of its policy towards Turkey after a human rights activist became the latest German citizen to be detained for alleged terrorist activity.

The government stepped up its travel advisory for the NATO ally as Gabriel warned it could no longer guarantee its citizens' safety in the face of "arbitrary" mass arrests, a step set to hit a sector crucial to Turkey's ailing economy.

Gabriel broke off his holiday to deal with the crisis after Turkey arrested six human rights activists including German national Peter Steudtner on accusations of terrorism, the latest in a series of diplomatic rows.

Germany, Turkey's chief export partner, called the allegations absurd.

"We need our policies towards Turkey to go in a new direction...we can't continue as we have done," Gabriel told reporters in unusually direct language touching on sensitive commercial matters including corporate investment guarantees.

Relations between Turkey and Germany, home to three million ethnic Turks, have been badly strained, particularly since the failed coup a year ago against Erdogan.

Gabriel said Germany would review state guarantees for foreign investment in Turkey and urge businesses not to put their money there, and also reconsider its support for billions in EU financial flows earmarked over coming years for the long-time aspirant to membership of the bloc.

A Social Democrat, Gabriel made clear he was speaking for the coalition government led by conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel, and her spokesman soon tweeted that the steps were indeed "necessary and indispensable".

Gabriel recalled that Turkey, having long seen itself as "a member of the European family", had levelled Nazi jibes at Germany, and accused Erdogan of worsening a crisis that Berlin had repeatedly sought to ease through dialogue.

He accused Erdogan of trying to muzzle "every critical voice" with mass arrests in sweeping crackdowns over the past year.

Gabriel stressed that Germany still wanted to rebuild relations with its long-time ally but that first Erdogan's government must "return to European values".

Turkey's presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin accused Germany of "great political irresponsibility" in stepping up its travel warning and said: "We do not accept this."

He pointed to Germany's general election in September, saying: "It's unacceptable to try and damage economic relations, try and arouse doubts in the minds of German investors, for the sake of petty electoral calculations."

Foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu later accused Germany of harbouring members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought an insurgency in southeast Turkey since 1984, and the network of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen that Ankara blames for a failed coup last July.

"As a country providing shelter to PKK and FETO terrorists in its own territory, statements by Germany are just double standards and unacceptable," Cavusoglu said on Twitter.

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