Germany says Turkey dropped terror link charge against German firms

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble

Germany said Turkey had informed it on Monday that it had dropped accusations of “terrorism” funding against nearly 700 German companies amid an escalating dispute between the NATO partners.

A spokesman for the German interior ministry said his Turkish counterpart had contacted him about the allegations leveled against nearly 700 German firms including giants Daimler and BASF.

The spokesman, Tobias Plate, said Berlin had been told that the list of companies with Turkish operations being investigated for “financing of terrorism” lodged with Interpol in May had been withdrawn, saying the suspicion had been based on a “communication problem.”

The Turkish interior minister “assured us that the Turkish authorities were not investigating companies on the list in Turkey or in Germany,” he said.

German newspaper Die Zeit reported last week that Turkey had handed Germany a list of 68 companies and individuals suspected of links to terrorism due to alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement, blamed for Turkey’s failed coup last year. The movement denies the charge.

Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Friday denied the claims, saying the reports were “black propaganda” aimed at pressuring German companies not to invest in Turkey. “You have no power to darken Turkey,” Erdoğan said.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım had also dismissed the report as “entirely a lie” and urged Berlin to solve an escalating crisis through dialogue.

Meanwhile, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has said President Erdoğan is putting at risk his country’s centuries-old ties with Germany. “He is jeopardizing the centuries-old partnership,” Schaeuble said of Erdoğan.”It is dramatic, as there is really a lot that connects us. But we can’t allow ourselves to be blackmailed,” the minister said in an interview with the Bild daily published on Monday.

EU’S HAHN: TURKISH ECONOMY COULD BE HARMED

EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn has said on Monday, on the eve of talks in Brussels with senior Turkish officials that the Turkish economy could be harmed if growing tensions with the bloc, and especially with Germany, get out of hand. Hahn has also said the country that is a candidate to join the bloc is “slipping away from European values.”

“I am always concerned if there is an increase of tension between one of our member states or some member states with neighboring countries. I think Turkey should understand the reasons for that and address it,” Hahn told reporters. “We are in the middle of the tourism season; this is certainly not conducive to invite people to come and go there,” he said. “The same applies for investment in the country, if the situation seems to be still very shaky, very unclear, very fragile.”

Hahn and EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini meet Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Turkish EU Affairs Minister Ömer Çelik on Tuesday amid increasingly sharp exchanges over Ankara’s rights record and a crackdown after last year’s failed coup.

Asked about the possible suspension of funding for candidate member countries, Hahn said that while he had a certain amount of “discretion” on the matter, the money could not be halted as long as the accession negotiations remained open. “As long as this decision [to halt accession] has not been taken, these payments must continue,” he said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff said on Sunday that Turkey’s behavior was “unacceptable” and that Germany had a duty to protect its citizens and companies, but also wanted to maintain strong bilateral ties.

Germany has warned its nationals traveling to Turkey that they do so at their own risk, and Schaeuble was quoted on Friday as comparing Turkey with the former communist East German state, the German Democratic Republic.

In March, German authorities barred Turkish ministers from speaking at mass rallies of expatriates backing the president’s referendum campaign. He responded by accusing Berlin of “fascist actions.”

The activist arrests were part of a broader crackdown since last year’s failed coup. More than 150,000 people have been sacked or suspended from jobs in Turkey’s civil service, military and private sector and more than 50,000 have been jailed on coup charges. (SCF with turkishminute.com) July 24, 2017

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