Ally struggle

Wednesday, 2017-03-08 18:58:02
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel makes remarks about the German-Turkish relations during her visit to the Bosch Foundation to mark the 15th anniversary of the social organisation ''wellcome'' in Berlin, Germany, March 6, 2017. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
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NDO - The world is witnessing new strains in relations between Turkey and Germany after a 'war of words' erupted between Turkish leaders and the member countries of the European Union (EU). The tension runs the risk of damaging the awkward relations between Ankara and the key member of NATO after the failed coup attempt in Turkey in July of last year.

The row between Germany and Turkey has continued to escalate in recent days. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has condemned comments made by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accusing Germany of “Nazi practices” as unjustifiable.

The comments were made after a series of German cities and towns including Gaggenau, Cologne, Hamburg, Frechen cancelled planned rallies to seek support for a Turkish referendum in order to increase the powers of the Turkish President.

About 3 million Turks are living in Germany who President Erdogan aims to win the support of before implementing the referendum vote on constitutional changes in April.

After the Nazi insult, Erdogan also warned Germany not to obstruct him from making an appearance in Germany to call for support of Turks in Germany for constitutional changes.

Earlier, Turkish Foreigh Minister Cavusoglu said Germany applies double standards to his country and that Germany must learn how to behave if it wants to maintain relations with Turkey.

Germany and Turkey used to have common economic benefits and a large number of people of Turkish origin are living in Germany but the relations have become strained after the German parliament approved a resolution in June 2016 declaring that the mass killing of 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915 was “genocidal”.

While Germany condemned the crackdown and arrest of oppositions in Turkey after the failed coup last July, Ankara accused Berlin of providing shelter for those who commit crimes against Turkey namely the PKK and DHKP-C members, Turkey-based organisations listed as terrorists by the US and the EU.

The row between the two NATO member countries continues to grow when a German-Turkish journalist was arrested in Turkey and accused of producing terrorist propaganda and undermining the government. The two sides expressed deep differences of opinion, particularly in regards to freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

Turkey's protest against Germany has sparked backlash in German public opinion, demanding Chancellor Angela Merkel have a strong reaction. German politicians have warned of retaliation if Turkey does not apologise. The survey conducted in Germany showed that 81% of the respondents said that the government of Merkel was too easy on Ankara.

Meanwhile, public opinion in a number of European countries have also voiced support for Germany and opposed the moves of Turkey.

Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern called for a EU-wide ban on campaign appearances by Turkish politicians. He also called for the EU to end discussions with Turkey about membership in the bloc due to differences in democratic principles and the rule of law.

In response, Turkey criticised Austria's "irresponsible" approach to the potential campaign planned by President Erdogan in Austria to mobilise the community of 360,000 Turks in Austria to back the constitutional changes.

While the relations between Turkey and Germany remain in turmoil, European observers say Germany should be careful to avoid escalating the tensions due to concerns that Ankara will cease to continue co-operation in stopping migrants.

Despite opposing the insult made by the Turkish President, many German officials have also opposed the prohibition of the president's visit to Germany or the severing of diplomatic relations with Ankara which could lead to the possibility that Turkey, a NATO ally, will redirect its relations with Russia.

The relationship between Turkey and its allies in NATO, including the US, worsened after both the US and the EU spoke out against the harsh crackdown that Ankara conducted after the coup.

Meanwhile, the Russian-Turkish relationship has warmed with closer economic and military co-ordination following past tensions.

Settling the crisis in relations between Turkey and Germany as well as Turkey and European countries has attracted much public attention as it is time to "test" the alliance relationship between NATO member countries which are facing many challenges.