Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told Angela Merkel of his displeasure over Germany’s reportedly giving asylum to troops accused of links to last year’s failed coup, he said in an interview published on Saturday (27 May).
As he met the German chancellor on the sidelines of Thursday’s NATO summit in Brussels, Erdoğan said he raised the issue of “the putschist soldiers whose asylum applications have been accepted, and gave a firm reaction”.
“We asked: ‘How can you do this?'” Erdoğan said, quoted by the Hürriyet newspaper.
Since the attempted coup, dozens of Turkish diplomats and high-ranking officials have sought asylum in Germany as Ankara presses a crackdown on those suspected of links to US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom it accuses of ordering the putsch.
Earlier this month, German media reports said numerous Turkish military personnel and their families had been granted political asylum, prompting Ankara to accuse Berlin of “embracing a pro-coup mentality”.
But Erdoğan said Merkel told him asylum approval “was not up to her”.
Ankara’s relations with the EU have been strained since the 15 July coup and have been further tested by a number of other issues, including last month’s referendum on expanding Erdoğan’s powers.
When Turkish ministers were blocked from speaking at rallies in the Netherlands and Germany ahead of the 16 April vote, Erdoğan accused both countries of “Nazi practices”.
A further blow to relations was Ankara’s imprisonment in February of Deniz Yücel, a German-Turkish journalist with Die Welt, on terror charges.
“A positive meeting”
EU Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker also met with Erdoğan ahead of the NATO summit in an effort to rebuild ties.
Erdoğan was quoted as saying it was a “positive meeting for a new and positive momentum in Turkey’s EU membership process”.
He said Brussels had presented Turkey with a 12-month timetable for improving relations, adding that Ankara would work with the bloc and “take steps” without giving detail.
A European Commission spokesman said on Thursday that Turkey and the EU “must and will continue to cooperate”.
Germany’s interior ministry said on Friday that 217 of the asylum applications came from Turks holding diplomatic passports, while another 220 were from people with passports issued to other government employees and their dependants.
It is not known how many have been given asylum or how many are from the military.
Incirlik base spat persists
Erdoğan also said he discussed with Merkel the issue of German lawmakers wanting to visit the Incirlik military base near Syria.
Ankara refused to allow German lawmakers to visit the base this month and Erdoğan said Turkey wanted a list of those who would visit because some MPs “openly support terrorists”.
The lawmakers called off their visit but not before Berlin warned it could move its 250 military personnel stationed at the base to another location in the region, most likely Jordan.
The German forces at the base fly Tornado surveillance missions over Syria and refuel flights for partner nations battling the Islamic State jihadist group.