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Merkel Says EU-Turkey Ties 'Severely Hit' By Ankara Developments


German Chancellor Angela Merkel (right) has voiced concerns that a referendum earlier this month on expanding the power of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) was not held under fair conditions. (file photo)

EU-Turkey relations have been severely hit by the actions of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government, German Chancellor Angela Merkel says.

"The developments over the past weeks have severely hit German-Turkish ties as well as European-Turkish relations," Merkel told parliament on April 27.

Merkel voiced concerns that a referendum earlier this month on expanding Erdogan's powers was not held under fair conditions.

But Merkel said it was "neither in Europe nor Turkey's interest" for either side to turn away from the other. "We will work towards returning to dialogue," she said.

Merkel also mentioned Ankara's arrest and treatment of German newspaper correspondent Deniz Yucel as "incompatible with a constitutional state."

Yucel, a journalist for the Die Welt daily, a German-Turkish national, was jailed in February on terror charges and is awaiting trial.

He is being held in solitary confinement and Germany has been allowed to make only one consular visit so far.

Merkel said she would also use a summit with fellow EU leaders in Brussels on May 29 to discuss "which measures would be appropriate" for the bloc to take vis-a-vis Turkey.

Relations between Germany and Turkey have worsened over disputes related to a failed coup in July and a subsequent crackdown on alleged conspirators.

More Gulen-Related Arrests

Merkel's statements came a day after Turkey detained more than 1,000 people accused of suspected links to U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen whom Erdogan blames for orchestrating the coup.

Turkey also temporarily suspended some 9,000 personnel from its police force on April 26.

It was one of the largest operations in recent months against the movement that authorities blame for last summer's failed military coup.

Police launched simultaneous operations in all of Turkey's 81 provinces, detaining a total of 1,120 people connected to the police force, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

About 8,500 police officers participated in the operation, Anadolu reported.

Hours later, 9,103 personnel were temporarily removed from the country's police force while they were being investigated for possible ties to Gulen's movement, the agency reported.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu described the nationwide operations as an important step toward the government's aim of "bringing down" the Gulen movement.

The suspects are allegedly Gulen operatives called "secret imams" who are accused of directing followers within the police force.

Soylu said the individuals allegedly "infiltrated the police, tried to lead it from the outside by forming an alternative (police) structure."

Gulen denies any part in the coup, which was led by military officers.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
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