Improving relations "on the basis of our values"
There are currently "profound differences of opinion" between Germany and Turkey, said Chancellor Angela Merkel in a government statement in the German Bundestag. These differences of opinion relate to such fundamental issues as democracy and law. "There are few countries with which Germany has so complicated but also such diverse links as it has with Turkey," underscored the Chancellor.
Comparisons with Nazi practices unacceptable and depressing
This makes the statements made by members of the Turkish government and even the Turkish President comparing the Federal Republic of Germany with National Socialism "all the sadder and more depressing".
"It is so far off the mark that it is not really worthy of serious comment," said Angela Merkel unequivocally. It cannot be justified "under any circumstances", not even in view of the current campaign attempting to introduce a presidential system in Turkey.
"These comparisons must stop," declared the Chancellor. They are not worthy of the close links between the Turkish and the German people in the political arena, in terms of civil society, in business, and as partners within NATO."
Last weekend the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan criticised the debate surrounding the cancelled campaign appearances of Turkish politicians in Germany, with the words "I thought National Socialism was a thing of the past in Germany, but it is still there".
Germany will continue to work for the release of Deniz Yücel
It is not in the interests of Germany, "that Turkey, which is after all our partner in NATO, distance itself even further from us." The German government will continue "to do its utmost" for German-Turkish relations – "but on the basis of our values, our beliefs and in all clarity," stressed Angela Merkel.
She also reaffirmed that the German government will "use every option open to us" to work for the release of the German journalist Deniz Yücel, who is currently imprisoned in Turkey.
The Chancellor said that the German government still considers it possible for Turkish politicians to speak at campaign events in Germany within the framework of German laws, and in compliance with the imperatives of freedom of opinion, freedom of the press, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. Appearances of this sort must, however, be correctly, "honestly and openly" announced in good time such that they can in fact be officially authorised.
Germany is "one of the freest countries in the world"
On Wednesday (8 March) Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Sigmar Gabriel said clearly after a meeting with the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu in Berlin, "There are quite simply lines that may not be crossed, and one of them is the comparison with Nazi Germany."
Sigmar Gabriel continued, "This is the freest state that there has ever been on German soil. We are one of the freest and most democratic countries in the world."
A good, honest meeting, although discussions were controversial
Sigmar Gabriel reported that his meeting with Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu was "good and honest, cordial in the way we dealt with one another, although tough and controversial in terms of the matters discussed". "We agreed that neither side is interested in causing lasting damage to relations," he stressed.
Their talks covered all bones of contention, Sigmar Gabriel reported, and specifically mentioned the case of the German journalist Deniz Yücel who is currently imprisoned in Turkey, as well as the constitutional reform in Turkey and the campaign appearances of Turkish politicians in Germany.
Fair, open and honest partnership is the goal
The aim must now be to return to normal, cordial relations "step by step", said the Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs. He expressly praised the importance of his meeting. "Only face to face meetings, like our meeting here today, will gradually improve relations between our two countries again." The goal of both sides must be to put in place a "fair, open and honest partnership and indeed friendship" between the two countries, said Sigmar Gabriel.
Freedom of the press and freedom of opinion are fundamental values
The German government attaches a great deal of importance to maintaining good relations with Turkey, said government spokesperson Steffen Seibert at the government press conference on Monday (6 March). In recent months, he reported, the German government has repeatedly voiced its serious concerns in the face of restrictions imposed on freedom of expression and freedom of the press in Turkey.
"We have criticised criminal proceedings launched against a large number of journalists," said Steffen Seibert. The fate of the German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel is typical of the restrictions imposed on the freedom of opinion and freedom of the press. "We demand fair treatment for him in line with the rule of law." The German government considers it unreasonable and disproportionate that Deniz Yücel has been remanded in custody. "We expect Deniz Yücel to be released as soon as possible," declared the government spokesperson.
"In spite of all these serious differences of opinion, we must address our differences as partners," Steffen Seibert continued. "In all clarity, and – on our side – on the basis of our values: freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of assembly."