Turkish FM: Germany should focus on its own problems
05 Sep 2017 - 1:07
By Fatih Hafiz Mehmet & Hasan Esen / Anadolu Agency
ANKARA: Turkey’s foreign minister on Monday criticized German politicians sparring in a weekend debate for focusing on Turkey rather than Germany’s own pressing problems.
"The debate started with Turkey and ended with Turkey. The election isn’t taking place in Turkey, it is taking place in Germany,” Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters in Slovenia while attending a foreign policy forum.
“Do German politicians have any other messages to present to their people besides Turkey? How will they solve the problems in Germany?"
Three weeks before Sept. 24 general elections, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her center-left rival Martin Schulz clashed over Turkey policy in a televised debate Sunday night, with Schulz making a surprise proposal to halt Ankara’s EU membership talks and freeze €4 billion ($4.68 billion) in pre-accession funds.
Cavusoglu said German politicians should have talked instead about the rising racism in Germany and Europe, Islamophobia, antisemitism, the European economy, and the future of the European Union.
"Looking at these debates, we see populism at its peak. Europe must get rid itself of this political populism," Cavusoglu stressed.
He said when one side takes populist stances, the other side fears losing votes if it does not do the same.
"This is a serious weakness for centrist politics. Centrist parties have lost a lot of ground," Cavusoglu added.
He said Europe is returning to pre-World War II values of fascism and intolerance.
Cavusoglu also decried how despite constant German lectures on human rights, it is ignoring the plight of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims.
"Was anything said on yesterday's TV program about the persecution of Muslims in Rakhine state?”, asked Cavusoglu. “I heard nothing. Why don't you raise your voice? Because they fear losing votes if they bring up the persecution of Muslims there," he stressed.
He added: "This is a very sad picture. If you’re so sensitive about human rights, where are you?"
Speaking at a panel in the forum later in the day, Cavusoglu charged that centrist parties in Europe are using the same racist language and rhetoric as far-right parties.
He said it would be better for German politicians to focus on their own problems during the election campaign rather dealing with Turkey or Hungary.
Cavusoglu said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban were mentioned much more than internal problems during Sunday’s televised debate.
He underlined that there is no problem on opening, discussing, or closing chapters in Turkey’s EU accession talks. “The problem is the political obstacles we are faced with.”
On Turkey’s action against the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) which is behind last year’s defeated coup attempt, Cavusoglu said FETO members were fired from state institutions as they were loyal to their U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen rather than the state of Turkey.
FETO and its leader Fetullah Gulen orchestrated the defeated coup attempt of July 15, 2016, which left 250 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.
Ankara also accuses FETO of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary.
Following the defeated coup attempt, the government has fired thousands of civil servants and members of security forces and intelligence agencies for their alleged links to FETO and loyalty to its leader.
Cavusoglu said the Turkish government had to take the action in order to prevent a second coup attempt.
‘Stop the careless language’
Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik also criticized Sunday’s debate, urging German politicians to stop using careless language.
“Mentioning stopping Turkey’s [EU membership] talks means attacking the EU’s founding values," Celik wrote, asking: "Is this Schulz’s mission?”
During the debate, Social Democrat Party (SPD) leader Schulz said if he becomes chancellor, he will cancel Turkey’s EU membership talks.
“These politicians are unaware what the EU is,” he said, adding that they confuse the EU with “the United States of Germany.”
Celik urged German politicians to abandon the “careless” language they have been using.
“Having good relations between Turkey and Germany benefits everyone," he said.
*Nilay Kar Onum also contributed to this story from Istanbul.