World Bulletin / News Desk
Germany’s new president Wednesday called for de-escalation of tensions with Turkey, stressing the importance of bilateral ties for both countries.
Addressing lawmakers at parliament after being sworn in as the country’s new president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier welcomed recent signals from Ankara towards calming tensions with Berlin, after a weeks-long standoff over Turkish campaign rallies being blocked.
“Reliable signals to reduce tensions are welcome. But unspeakable Nazi comparisons should come to an end,” he said, referring to the Turkish politicians’ sharp criticisms of moves by German local authorities to block planned campaign rallies.
Tensions between Turkey and Germany rose after dozens of rallies were cancelled where Turkish ministers and politicians were scheduled to address their countrymen ahead of Turkey's April 16 referendum.
Nearly 3 million Turkish migrants live in Germany and around half are eligible to vote in the referendum on transition to a presidential system of governance.
Turkish political leaders were outraged at the cancellations, which particularly targeted the Yes campaign of the government, and compared them to Nazi-era practices.
Turning down the tension
Despite tensions, Germany’s federal government distanced itself from the cancellations by local authorities, and also last week gave its approval to Ankara’s request to open polling stations in the country for the April 16 referendum.
Turkish politicians reportedly cancelled some of the rallies planned in Germany for this week, a move welcomed by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition government, as a sign of intention to calm down tensions.
Steinmeier, who served as foreign minister from 2013 until last January, expressed hope for overcoming the recent tensions, and reviving partnership between Germany and Turkey.
The experienced Social Democrat politician praised Turkey’s political reforms and economic development in the last decade during the EU membership process, and once again condemned the foiled July 15 coup attempt last year.
But he also raised expectations for democracy and press freedom in Turkey, urging authorities to release Die Welt daily’s Istanbul correspondent Deniz Yucel, who was detained last month on charges of making propaganda for the terrorist group PKK.