German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Ankara, for the first time since the coup attempt, to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. Many had thought that the visit of the German Chancellor would be support for Erdogan but she did not miss the opportunity to criticize the lack of press freedom in Turkey.
“With the coup attempt, we have seen how the Turkish people defended democracy and the rules of democracy in Turkey,” Merkel stated during the joint press conference with Erdogan and said that “just for that, in this crucial phase, it is important that freedom of expression be respected and in relation to this we talked about freedom of the press ”
“The opposition is part of democracy. Separation of powers and freedom of expression should be guaranteed in the constitutional revision ”
Erdogan said the latest developments in the Aegean, developments in Syria and Iraq were discussed. The Turkish President became irritated and interrupted Merkel when she spoke about cooperation against Islamic terrorism.
“I need to clarify something. This term hurts us as Muslims. The word Islam is not related to terrorism, it means peace and I explained this to Ms Merkel
The Chancellor did not leave his comment go unanswered and clarified that “Islam is one thing and Islamic terrorism another”.
She stressed that Germany does a lot for the millions of Muslims living there to exercise their religion freely.
The main topic of discussion was the refugee crisis and Merkel made it clear that the financial assistance from the EU will continue under the agreement made in March 2016 and stressed that the agreement for the refugee crisis and its compliance is in the “common interest” of all.
The German Chancellor had visited Turkey three times in 2016 on this issue.
After her meeting with Erdogan she visited the Turkish Parliament and the point where fighter jets bombed during the militant coup.
However, Merkel made it clear that the issue of the non-extradition of Turkish citizens which Ankara blames for having relations with the Islamic Gulen movement is a matter of an independent judiciary and in effect refused Erdogan’s request.
On Thursday evening Merkel met with Turkish Pime Minister Yildirim and in joint statements the Chancellor said they discussed the Cyprus issue and satated that she “considers it necessary to accelerate the negotiating process.”
The Turkish Prime Minister said that “Turkey wants to solve the Cyprus problem. We want a united Cyprus with two associations and one entity. All sides must have more patience and make mutual sacrifices. ”
Relations between Ankara and Berlin, have deteriorated after the attempted July coup, which was followed by a wave of persecution, causing concern in European countries. Despite problems however Germany has asked Turkey to allocate more room for German fighter jets at the Incirlik base to serve strategic interests.
Merkel was the centre of fierce criticism in Germany but also from the opposition in Turkey concerning this visit. The leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) Kemal Kılıçdaroglu requested that she didn’t visit’Ankara since that would mean she supported Erdogan ahead of the referendum on the constitutional reform.
The bill of the reform adopted by the Parliament was sent to the President for approval and with Erdogan’s signature the election campaign for the referendum to be held in April will start./ΙΒΝΑ