Candidate for German chancellor Schulz says will not be blackmailed by Erdoğan

German politician and candidate for chancellor Martin Schulz.

Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader and candidate for German chancellor Martin Schulz on Saturday strongly criticized Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over human rights violations, saying he would not be blackmailed on refugee policy, Deutsche Welle reported.

“If you fly to Turkey and make a report, I can’t say whether or not you’ll be in jail the next day. And that definitely is not consistent with European Union principles,” Schulz told DW, describing the human rights situation in Turkey as terrible.

Underlining that if need be, he would also cancel the EU-Turkey refugee deal, the SPD leader said: “But I am not prepared to get down on my knees in front of Erdoğan. We cannot allow ourselves to be blackmailed.”

Schulz’s election rival, Chancellor Angela Merkel, said on Saturday that Germany will have no choice but to restrict its economic ties with Turkey to pressure its NATO partner into releasing German citizens it has imprisoned in politically motivated cases.

Merkel said, “We will have to further cut back our joint economic cooperation with Turkey and scrutinize projects,” a Reuters report said.

Meanwhile, the Turkish Foreign Ministry on Saturday summoned Martin Erdmann, the German ambassador to Turkey, to protest activities in Germany linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

“We condemn the permission given for an activity and propaganda of the terrorist PKK in the German city of Cologne. Our position has been expressed to the German ambassador, who was summoned to the ministry,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The ministry noted that PKK symbols and posters of Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed PKK leader, were permitted and a message from the acting leader of the terrorist organization was relayed during a festival in Cologne, despite the fact that all are banned in Germany.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry on Sept. 9 issued a travel warning for citizens visiting Germany, saying there has been anti-Turkish and racist rhetoric by German politicians during campaigns for the upcoming elections, also adding that Berlin has been supporting terrorist groups.

The foreign ministry accused Germany of supporting the PKK and the faith-based Gülen movement, which is accused by Turkish authorities of masterminding a failed coup last year.

Berlin’s relations with Ankara are strained by Turkey’s crackdown on government critics after a failed coup last year. Germany and its partners in the European Union say the crackdown undermines democracy.

Turkey and Germany are also at odds over Berlin’s refusal to extradite asylum seekers Erdoğan and his government accuse of involvement in a botched coup against him.

Germany has been angered by Turkey’s arrest of around a dozen German citizens, including German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel, who has been held for more than 200 days.

Merkel, whose conservatives are expected to win a federal election in Germany on Sept. 24 and secure her a fourth term in office, said on Tuesday Germany would restrict some arms sales to Turkey.

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel of the center-left SPD, who are trailing the conservatives in opinion polls, had earlier said that all major arms exports to Turkey had been put on hold. (SCF with

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