Merkel voices ‘great concern’ over Turkey ahead of visit

Merkel and Erdoğan in his palace, 18 October, 2015. [Turkish President]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said some political developments in Turkey were a source of “great concern” and pledged to address them during a visit to the country today (23 May).

In an interview published on Sunday (22 May), Markel said she was ready to discuss “all the important questions” with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan when they meet in Istanbul at a UN-backed summit on humanitarian relief work.

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“Naturally some developments in Turkey are a source of great concern for us,” the German leader told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung at a time when Erdoğan has been accused by Western critics of an increasingly authoritarian style.

She said a decision last week by the Turkish legislature to strip scores of lawmakers of their parliamentary immunity would have “serious consequences” for Kurdish politicians, a fact that filled her “with great concern”.

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Turkey’s parliament today (20 May) adopted a highly divisive bill that will lift immunity for dozens of pro-Kurdish and other MPs and could see them thrown out of parliament.

Merkel also said she regretted that “the process of rapprochement and reconciliation with the Kurds was aborted in the past year”.

While Berlin, like Ankara, viewed the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) as a terrorist organisation, she said, the Kurdish population must have an “equal place and a good future in Turkey”.

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Turkey’s prime minister will tell world leaders next week that Ankara can play a key role in stopping a spread of terrorism, including Islamic State, but expected understanding for its own battle against Kurdish militants.

The European Union and Turkey struck an agreement in March to limit the flow of refugees into the EU, under which Turkey agreed to take back illegal migrants while getting aid for hosting refugees and gaining eased visa rules for the EU.

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All migrants and refugees arriving in Greece from this Sunday (20 March) will be returned to Turkey, under a controversial agreement hammered out over two days between the EU and Ankara at a summit in Brussels.

Merkel defended the controversial deal that her government spearheaded and rejected the notion that the 28-member bloc had made itself too dependent on Ankara.

“Of course there are interdependencies — or you can simply call it the need to balance our interests,” Merkel told the newspaper.

She said that, despite such mutual dependencies, Germany was always ready to voice criticism on developments in a country, “whether in public or in private”.

The visa deal with the EU has been in jeopardy over Ankara’s reluctance to alter its counter-terror laws, a requirement of the agreement, prompting Erdoğan to make a series of critical statements about the EU in recent weeks.

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Saturday (7 May) accused European nations of hypocrisy in pressing his country on terror laws while “sidelining democracy” at home in their own fight against terrorism.

Merkel said that she was watching closely how Turkey was meeting its obligations under the agreement and said that “at the moment it fulfils them reliably, and of course I will speak about the state of affairs with the Turkish president”.

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan warned the European Union on Thursday (7 April) that Ankara would not implement a key deal on reducing the flow of refugees if Brussels fails to fulfil its side of the bargain.

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An adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan threatened that if the European Parliament votes against lifting the visa requirement for Turkish citizens, his country would send refugees on its territory to the European Union.

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