German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has said German journalist Deniz Yücel, who has been jailed in Turkey since Feb. 14, is being held hostage by Turkey, Deutsche Welle reported on Thursday.
“Deniz Yücel is still in prison because in my opinion Turkey has taken him hostage,” said Gabriel in an interview with Buzzfeed News Deutschland. Underlining that Berlin might use economic and diplomatic tools to accomplish the release of Yücel, Gabriel said, “We would not occupy Turkey.”
Reiterating a policy change with regard to Turkey, Gabriel said Berlin would not take Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as seriously as before. “For a long time, we have tried a rational stance against him. Sometimes it might be better not to take him so seriously.”
Yücel, who was detained as part of an investigation for publishing stories on the leaked emails of President Erdoğan’s son-in-law and Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, was arrested by a court on Feb. 27 and sent to Silivri Prison in İstanbul.
In April Erdoğan said the extradition of Turkish-German journalist Yücel to Germany will never take place as long as he is president. Erdoğan has on many occasions accused Yücel of being a German agent and a representative of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Meanwhile, Erdoğan’s spokesman İbrahim Kalın has responded to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s remarks on not expanding a customs union between Turkey and the European Union and said they were “unfortunate” and made only because of the upcoming German elections.
Kalın’s remarks came after Merkel said on Wednesday that the EU cannot continue expanding the customs union with Turkey unless tensions with Turkey ease and underlined that there would be “no kind of deepening at all” in Turkey-EU ties.
Criticizing Germany for giving orders to EU institutions as an EU member, Kalın said: “The customs union agreement was signed based on a win-win principle. Here, we are referring to a relationship that ensures gain for both Turkey and European countries. When this is prevented, postponed or cancelled, not only Turkey but also European countries will be damaged by that.”
Kalın called Merkel’s remarks “unfortunate” and said such anti-Turkey statements were made because of the approaching elections in Germany.
“It is problematic to classify Turkey as 50 percent here 50 percent there. If we did a similar analysis for Germany, what would the reaction of Ms. Merkel be? She would not appreciate it herself if we said people who are not voting for her have expectations from us. We are not taking it very seriously,” added Kalın during a press conference.
Turkish EU Minister Çelik also criticized Merkel for making statements which, he said, are harming the credibility of the EU and added: “We should emphasize that no EU member should give orders to EU institutions or EU processes. These situations are very dangerous, they represent statements that harm the EU’s credibility.”
Çelik also called recent remarks by Merkel on the customs union “unfortunate.”
The German government asked the European Commission to suspend preparatory work on negotiations with Turkey for modernizing the EU-Turkey customs union because it would send the “wrong signal” to Turkey in light of recent events.
“We will not exert extra efforts to continue the customs union agreement with Turkey,” added Merkel.
Relations between Turkey and European Union countries deteriorated sharply after a series of disputes linked to Turkey’s crackdown in the wake of last year’s controversial coup attempt, in which 249 people were killed.
Tensions with Germany are particularly acute because Turkish authorities detained several German nationals including a journalist and a rights activist. Germany is also withdrawing forces from Turkey’s İncirlik Airbase after Ankara restricted access to German politicians. (SCF with turkishminute.com)