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Germany's Olaf Scholz meets Erdogan amid Ukraine crisis

March 14, 2022

German Chancellor Scholz met with his Turkish counterpart days after Turkey hosted high-level talks between Ukraine and Russia.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks during a press conference in Berlin
Germany is hoping to end Russia's invasion of Ukraine through diplomacyImage: Odd Andersen/Pool/AP/picture alliance

Talks between German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan concluded on Monday, with Erdogan casting doubt on future weapons sales from Russia.

While speaking in Ankara, Scholz said that Russia was isolating itself from other countries as a result of the war in Ukraine.

"With every day, with every bomb, Putin distances himself further from the international community," Scholz said.

Scholz told Russia to end the invasion, saying that "there can only be a diplomatic solution."

What did Scholz say?

"President Erdogan and myself are in absolute agreement that the violent military conflict in Ukraine must be condemned and that we want to see a ceasefire as soon as possible," Scholz said following the talks.

Scholz said that both Turkey and Germany have supported Ukraine with weapons and thanked Ankara for closing the Bosphorus — the small strait controlled by Turkey that acts as a passage between the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea — to warships.

Scholz also brought up the "differences" between German and Turkish policy that sometimes put bilateral relations under strain, such as "rule of law, human rights, or the perspectives of German citizens who are either arrested in prison or not allowed to leave homes."

"I think we've achieved a bit of movement there and I hope that we will find a mutually beneficial solution to these differences," the German chancellor said.

What did Erdogan say?

"We need to accelerate diplomatic efforts. Turkey will do its best to bring together both parties," Erdogan told the press conference, also pointing out the previous meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers that was organized by Ankara.

The Turkish president also spoke about the two countries' economic ties.

"Germany is an important partner in terms of imports and exports," he said, adding that bilateral commerce between the two reached $38 billion (€34.62 billion) in 2020. "We are determined to make this $50 billion."

He also highlighted the important role played by Germany in Turkey's tourism sector, a role shared with Russia. The US sanctioned Turkey in 2020 after the NATO member state purchased S-400 missile defense systems from Russia.

What do we know so far about the visit?

Russia's invasion of Ukraine dominated the talks between the two leaders. Turkey has positioned itself as a mediator in the conflict, as it has maintained relatively friendly relations with both Kyiv and Moscow.

Scholz and Erdogan gave a joint press conference after the talks.

Last week, the foreign ministers of Ukraine and Russia met in Antalya, the first such summit since the war began. Although the talks failed to bring about much change, Turkey touted it as a success that they happened at all.

Ankara's role in the war has led to improved relations with several countries with whom ties have been tense in recent years, including Greece, Israel, and the United States.

How are German-Turkish relations at the moment?

Although Germany and Turkey are both members of NATO and have close economic ties, their relationship has been strained in recent years.  

Erdogan has increasingly cracked down on domestic opposition within Turkey following a coup in 2016, drawing condemnation from Berlin. The government's moves against the opposition include the incarceration of German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel.

Germany in recent months has also called for the release of detained activist Osman Kavala. Turkey has refused to let go of the prominent philantropist, despite a European Court of Human Rights ruling.  

ab, es/wd (AFP, dpa)