German FM Steinmeier applauds Turks for ′defying the tanks′ | News | DW | 17.07.2016
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German FM Steinmeier applauds Turks for 'defying the tanks'

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has praised the Turkish people's response to Friday night's failed coup attempt. Turkey now says six thousand people have been arrested since the endeavor was crushed.

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Erdogan blames Gülen for failed coup

In an interview with "Bild am Sonntag," Steinmeier recognized the courage of thousands of demonstrators who took to the streets early Saturday in protest at the attempted coup.

He told the German paper he was impressed how Turkish political parties immediately closed rank on the perpetrators of the putsch, insisting that democracy be upheld.

The botched coup, by a faction within the Turkish military, saw warplanes fly over key government installations and tanks roll up in major cities. But it was overturned within 10 hours, leaving nearly 300 people dead and some 1,440 injured.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Steinmeier has hailed the Turkish response to the coup

Steinmeier said the democratic signal was taken up by the spontaneous gatherings of thousands of Turks, "who defied the tanks" and showed their support for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

He called on all sides "to avoid further bloodshed" and to allow democracy and the constitution to take precedence, which, he said, would allow a return to law, order and stability.

"I assume that those responsible for the coup attempt have to face the legal consequences," Steinmeier said, calling on the Turkish government to respect the rule of law. In Turkey there have been calls for the return of the death penalty to deal with the perpetrators of the coup.

More coup officers detained

A purge of the military has intensified as the government reasserted its authority. On Sunday, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said more than 6,000 people had been arrested in connection with the coup attempt. "Right now, the cleansing is continuing," Bozdag was cited as saying by the state-run Anadolu news agency.

Turkish soldiers arrested

Thousands were arrested after the botched attempt

The figure includes thousands of soldiers and several military commanders. Two Constitutional Court judges, along with ten members of Turkey's top judicial council, were also detained. Almost 2,750 judges were fired for their alleged links to the coup. A senior Turkish official told the Reuters news agency that several plotters remained at large.

EU warning

Meanwhile European Union Commissioner Günther Oettinger warned the Turkish government against exploiting the failed coup to further restrict democratic freedoms after a power grab by Erdogan in recent years. He told the German paper "Welt am Sonntag" that if Erdogan moved away from EU and NATO values "he may indeed strengthen his position domestically, but he would be isolated in foreign policy."

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault also warned the Turkish leader against using the takeover attempt as a "blank check" to silence his opponents.

On Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin joined other world leaders in condemning the failed coup. In a phone call with Erdogan, he urged a return to order and stability, the Kremlin said.

Gulen and Erdogan

Once allies, Gulen (left) is now enemy number one

US irritated by accusations

But US-Turkish tensions have escalated after Erdogan demanded the extradition of a US-based cleric, who he accused of orchestrating the putsch.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington would study any evidence presented that may link Fethullah Gulen to the coup attempt. But Kerry angrily denied rumors within Turkey that the US had also played a part in the plot to overthrow the Turkish government.

"Public insinuations or claims about any role by the United States in the failed coup attempt are utterly false and harmful to our bilateral relations," Kerry told his Turkish counterpart by phone.

The Pentagon said it was working with Turkish authorities to resume air operations against so-called "Islamic State" (IS) militants in Syria and Iraq from the Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey. The facility, which is home to the US-led coalition against IS was sealed off on Saturday and power was cut.

mm/jm (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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