In an interview with DW, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu discusses the current tensions between the two countries - and explains what President Erdogan's reference to Germany's Nazi past was really about.
While visiting Germany, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke to DW about German-Turkish relations, current tensions between the two nations, and how to best understand President Recep Erdogan's recent reference to Germany's Nazi past.
DW: Mr. Cavusoglu, both Germany and Turkey appear satisfied following your talk with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel. Can this be taken as a sign that the countries' relations are back on track?
Mevlut Cavusoglu: Let's first recognize the grave tensions on the rise between our countries. This should not be underestimated. The statements of both countries, Germany's position, the pressure being put on Germany's Turks, and the fact that our electoral events have been undemocratically blocked in Germany are the cause for the very tense relationship. But it's also the case that both Mr. Gabriel and I, as our countries' foreign ministers, are interested in putting that relationship back on track. We are agreed on solving problems through dialogue.
What concrete steps can be taken to improve relations?
First, let's not repeat past mistakes. We have very clearly expressed our expectations to Mr. Gabriel. Prime Minister Binali Yildirıi also communicated these to Chancellor Merkel in both their last phone call and during the Munich Security Conference. My meeting yesterday with Mr. Gabriel was to discuss what we can do to decrease tensions. The meeting was positive and constructive. We will continue meeting regularly, and we exchanged a list of which representatives will visit Germany when. We communicated that the problems we have had should not be repeated.
Among all the tension, President Erdogan's Nazi reference stood out in particular and was met with stiff reaction. How do you see it?
We realize that the Nazi past is a sensitive issue for Germany. However, we are also mindful of certain recent developments and tendencies in Europe that are reminiscent of the years leading up to World War Two. The racism here, the xenophobia, the intolerance are undeniable. Erdogan's comments spoke to these practices that reflect the Nazi era. This chapter of history is behind us and we cannot return to it. The message is that such practices cannot return to Europe, Germany or Turkey. Erdogan's Nazi comments do not refer to anyone in particular, but to a series of practices.
Another aspect of the increased tensions is the detaining of the German journalist, Deniz Yucel. Did you and Mr. Gabriel speak about him? What will Turkey do on this point?
Germany always has the same statement to such matters: The judiciary must remain independent. Yet Turkey also has a judiciary, as well as law enforcement. The investigation involving Deniz Yucel is ongoing. He was not arrested for being a journalist, but for particular illegal activities, which are well-known in Germany and are illegal in both Germany and Turkey. We cannot discuss further details because the investigation is ongoing.
Will steps be taken to support consular access?
We, the Foreign Ministry, have forwarded this request to the Justice Ministry, and we are keeping on it. Confidentiality in the midst of an investigation is a very sensitive matter. But German nationals [in custody in Turkey] have almost always been able to seek consular help. That is something that has always been ensured. This is not something that we've ever been opposed to. But want to underscore once again that this has nothing to do with journalism. It is easy to say a journalist was arrested, but if we could publish details it would embarrass a great deal of people.
The interview was conducted by Ozlem Coskun.