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Spotlight: Turkey shows readiness to ease tension with Germany
Last Updated: 2017-08-10 07:09 | Xinhua
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The steps Turkey have recently taken, such as awarding a major energy contract to a Siemens-led consortium, suggest its readiness to mend ties with Germany despite the latter's threat of sanctions against Ankara amid the ongoing crisis, analysts said.

The Siemens-won tender may be seen as an economic concession to eliminate the political tension with Germany, Huseyin Bagci, a professor of international relations at Middle East Technical University (METU), told Xinhua.

Last week, a group of Turkish companies headed by Germany's Siemens won a one-billion-U.S.-dollar wind energy tender by offering the lowest price for supplying energy.

The result will make an important contribution to Turkish-German ties considering the 200-year-old cooperation between the two countries, Turkish Energy Minister Berat Albayrak said following the tender.

Turkey's recent efforts to contain the crisis, such as the withdrawal of a probe about German firms, indicate that Ankara does not want the crisis to deepen, said Cahit Armagan Dilek, director of the 21st Century Turkey Institute.

A probe into dozens of Turkey-based German firms about their alleged terrorism links was withdrawn in late July and Ankara said the inquiry was a result of miscommunication.

Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci said the probe was a mistake and that it would never recur.

"The Turkish government must have realized that the deepening of the crisis would be to its detriment," Dilek said, referring to the fact that Siemens-led consortium won the big energy tender.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim hosted representatives of 19 German firms at the Cankaya Palace at the end of July and assured them that the Turkish government would not allow the tension to damage their businesses.

"Let me put it very clearly: We do not see you as German companies, but rather as the companies of this country," the prime minister said at the meeting.

Gurkan Kumbaroglu, the chair of the Istanbul-based Energy Economy Association, said in remarks to the local media that the energy tender could serve as an olive branch in Turkish-German ties.

The bilateral ties between Turkey and Germany, two NATO members, began to sour after Turkey's failed coup attempt last July.

Turkey accuses Germany of acting as a safe haven to militants from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and not returning members of the Turkish military accused of being linked to Fethullah Gulen.

Gulen is a U.S.-based Turkish cleric who is accused by Ankara of masterminding the failed coup. Turkey says it's Gulen's followers in the military who attempted the coup.

In a latest move, Ankara allowed, following a previous refusal, a delegation of German lawmakers to visit under the NATO banner the German troops in an air base in Konya .

According to a report on Germany's Deutsche Welle on Tuesday, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said in a letter to the head of Germany's parliamentary defense committee that Turkey had accepted NATO's proposal for a visit to the base on Sept. 8.

In mid-July, Ankara barred a German group of lawmakers from visiting German military personnel in the Konya base. Media reports had said it was because of the fact that the German delegation included a deputy with links to the outlawed PKK.

Turkey has realized it has a tiger by the tail when Germany responded through economic measures, said Bagci.

"Those who govern Turkey should be careful about with whom to pick a fight," he added, noting there are around 6,500 German firms in Turkey.

Germany is a major economic partner for Turkey. The EU's leading country is one of the biggest foreign investors and over 60,000 people are employed in German companies in Turkey.

Germany accounts for about 10 percent in both Turkey's exports and imports. Nearly 3.5 million Turkish people live in Germany. Germany is traditionally the country which sends the biggest number of tourists to Turkey.

The dispute between the two countries had been further fuelled in May when Turkey did not allow German lawmakers to visit German troops stationed in the Incirlik military base in southern Turkey. As a result, Germany withdrew all its Tornado jets from Incirlik at the end of last month.

Back in spring, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Germany of adopting Nazi and fascist methods when Germany barred some Turkish Cabinet ministers from addressing Turkish expats ahead of April's referendum in Turkey.

Turkey's "Nazi" criticism drew harsh reactions from Germany, which has kept criticizing Ankara for eliminating the rule of law and cracking down on dissidents following the failed coup.

Several days after the coup attempt, the Turkish government imposed an emergency rule which has been in place ever since.

Many leading figures of the Gulen movement, such as military officers, jurists as well as media and business people, are facing trial in Turkey for being members of the Gulen movement.

Bruno Kahl, the head of Germany's foreign intelligence (BND), said in March that they are not convinced about Gulen's role in the coup. Kahl's remarks were coldly received in Ankara.

Highly vexed by Ankara's attitude, Germany threatened last month to introduce some economic and military sanctions against Turkey including steps that would hinder German investments there. Berlin also told its citizens to be careful when travelling to Turkey.

Germany could also move to block EU financial aid to Turkey which has been in a bid, though long-stalled, for membership with the EU.

The German move came on July 20, a day after Peter Steudtner, a German human rights activist, was arrested along with several representatives of Turkey-based human rights organizations on charges of aiding a terrorist organization.

Germany said it was absurd for the human rights activists to face such charges. However, Erdogan said earlier last month that the activists had gathered in Istanbul for a plot that would serve as a follow-up to last July's coup attempt.

"Relations between Turkey and Germany seem to have entered a phase of deterioration that is unpredictable," said Dilek.

However, he feels, like many analysts, the political tension between the two countries may well subside following Germany's general elections in September.

Ahead of Turkey's constitutional referendum in April, top Turkish officials strongly criticized Germany, while the German side usually chose not to respond in the same tone.

Turkey's image as a democratic country has sharply deteriorated in Europe in recent years and Turkey has often been accused of having turned away from democracy.

According to the German media, 80 percent of the Germans support imposing economic sanctions against Turkey.

Germany's rising criticism toward Turkey in recent weeks has also to do with the upcoming German elections, Murat Bilhan, deputy chairman of the Istanbul-based Turkish Asian Center for Strategic Studies (TASAM), told Xinhua.

"The course the Turkish-German relations will take will only become clear after September's elections," said Bilhan, a former Turkish diplomat.

German Foreign Minister Gabriel said at the beginning of the week that any improvement in bilateral ties depends on whether Turkey would change its current attitude.

"Those who treat German citizens in such a fashion can not expect us to act as if the political and economic ties were in very good shape," he was reported as saying.

The analysts say Turkey is doing the right thing by not acting in a way to escalate the crisis.

The escalation of the crisis may cause Germany to take some decisions that could harm Turkey irreparably, Bilhan noted.

As part of a deal with the EU updated in March, Turkey has promised to prevent refugees on its territory from travelling to Europe.

Turkey officially hosts around three million Syrian refugees.

Earlier last year, Erdogan suggested that Turkey would send the refugees to Europe by putting them on buses if the EU should not keep its promises in the refugee deal.

METU's Bagci said Erdogan seemed to act like a bull in a china shop by publicly targeting Germany in harsh language, while some leading government figures have tried to minimize the harm to bilateral ties by adopting a moderate discourse.

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