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Steinmeier calls for reviving ties with Turkey

April 24, 2024

On a visit to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the German president said Germany and Turkey needed each other. Erdogan used to occasion to criticize the West's stance on the Gaza war.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier (left) and Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Frank-Walter Steinmeier (left) and Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed that Germany and Turkey need each other, but clashed over Gaza warImage: Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa/picture alliance

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier called for a revival of German-Turkish relations, as he met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on Wednesday.

"These are serious times. And that is precisely why we need each other," he said at a joint press conference with Erdogan. "That is why we should give new importance to German-Turkish relations."

"We need each other," Steinmeier said, and referred to cooperation within NATO and the G20. 

Disagreements over Gaza war

Steinmeier made it clear that he and Erdogan had spoken openly about the differences in their assessment of conflict in the Middle East since the Hamas-led terrorist attacks on Israel last year.

"In my opinion, without October 7 there would be no war in the Middle East," the German president said.

Steinmeier said there was some common ground on improving the humanitarian situation in Gaza. 

"We want to and must improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza. We want to and must prevent the war from becoming a conflagration in the region. Turkey also has a very important role to play here," he said.

There is also agreement between Germany and Turkey that, without prospects for Palestinians, there will be no peace and no lasting security for Israel in the medium and long term.

"This is another thing that unites us: In the end, this political perspective can only lie in the two-state solution," Steinmeier said.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier und Recep Tayip Erdogan in Ankara
Steinmeier was visiting Turkey to mark 100 years since Germany and Turkey first established diplomatic relationsImage: Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa/picture alliance

Erdogan accused the West of turning a blind eye to the suffering of civilians in Gaza.

Gaza has been "destroyed," Erdogan said. "Our German friends must see this tragic situation," he added.

The Turkish president also again sharply criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accusing him of endangering the entire Middle East to ensure his political survival.

He said Turkey was making efforts to secure the release of the Israeli hostages abducted by Hamas.

Racism in Germany

Erdogan also expressed concern about rising racism in Germany.

"Our concerns about rising xenophobic, Islamophobic, far-right and racist organizations in Germany, together with Europe, are steadily increasing," he said.

Erdogan said he was "proud" of the millions of people of Turkish origin in Germany, who play important roles in society, the economy and culture. He also welcomed a new German dual citizenship law as an important step toward better integration.

"The outstanding common denominator and the backbone of our bilateral relations with Germany are our strong human ties," Erdogan said.

Steinmeier arrived in Turkey on Monday. It's the first official visit by a German president in 10 years. The trip marks the 100th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the countries. Unlike in Turkey, the German president serves a largely ceremonial, diplomatic role. 

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier cuts doner meat at the residence of the German Ambassador in Tarabya in Istanbul
Together with the owner of a kebab shop in Berlin, Steinmeier took a large vertical rotisserie with 60 kilograms of kebab meat on a trip to TurkeyImage: Cuneyt Karadag/Anadolu Agency/picture alliance

Kebab diplomacy

Steinmeier's decision to visit Turkey with Berlin chef Arif Keles and a giant döner kebab cone attracted almost more attention in the German and Turkish media than the content of the visit.

"I don't think it's a sign of how superficial relations have become, but rather a sign of the superficiality of the debate about this visit," Steinmeier said. 

dh/wmr (dpa, AFP)

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