The relationship between the two countries seemed to be relaxing recently. But now the Turkish government is accusing Germany of controlling the opposition in the country.
Just a few weeks ago, Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan swore allegiance to the two countries – now there are new problems. Ankara accuses Germany of funding and controlling opponents of the Turkish government. Turkish opposition parties are acting on German orders, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said. Government politicians and pro-government media in Turkey are primarily targeting the German ambassador to Ankara, Jürgen Schulz, who is alleged to be pulling the strings. Anti-Western conspiracy theories are part of the government’s program one year before the next election – the controversy may therefore escalate further.
The new divide began last week when the Foreign Ministry in Berlin summoned the Turkish ambassador to Germany, Ahmet Basar Sen, to protest the verdict against Turkish cultural promoter Osman Kavala. A court in Istanbul had sentenced Kavala to life in prison for an alleged coup attempt, although the European Court of Human Rights is demanding his release. Due to the case, an expulsion procedure is under way in the Council of Europe against Turkey, which as a member of the Council is obliged to comply with the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights.
Erdogan and his government do not recognize the sovereignty of the Council of Europe Court of Justice in Kavala. The case ended with the conviction of the accused and the right to object from the human rights court was “dated”, Erdogan said. Germany and other European countries see things differently and criticize the handling of Kavala as a sign that the judiciary in Turkey is serving the government. Shortly after Sen was summoned to Berlin, German Ambassador Schulz was summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry in Ankara to intercept the Turkish government’s protest against the federal government’s behavior: Berlin did not need to criticize a Turkish court decision.
The German ambassador is the bogeyman of the Turkish government
Schulz is a bogeyman for the government and pro-government media in Turkey: They accuse him of helping to form an opposition alliance against President Erdogan. Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu recently said a joint statement from six opposition parties seeking to run against Erdogan’s coalition government in next year’s parliamentary and presidential elections had been agreed with a foreign ambassador to Ankara. Soylu spoke of European and American attempts at interference, but did not mention any names. Government newspaper Yeni Safak reported shortly thereafter that the ambassador in question had been Schulz. The German embassy in Ankara refused.
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Despite this, the government continues to capture the rumor of alleged German orders to the Turkish opposition. During a performance in his home province of Antalya, Foreign Minister Cavusoglu alluded to the accusation that Kavala had instigated the Gezi protests against the government in 2013 on behalf of foreign forces. Although there is no evidence, Kavala was convicted last week.
Why are other countries so worried about Kavala, Cavusoglu asked in his speech and answered the question himself: “Because they give money because they use people. They use this type of people to get involved in Turkey.” His ministry made it clear to Ambassador Schulz that he should not get involved in Turkish domestic policy. “But as you can see, the parties nominated here are ordering them to adapt accordingly and lead Turkey’s domestic policy.”
Erdogan hopes to convince voters with his anti-Western stance
In previous election campaigns, Erdogan’s government had turned to the West to impress nationalist voters. Shortly before the Turkish referendum on the introduction of Erdogan’s presidential system in 2017, the Turkish president accused then-Chancellor Angela Merkel of “Nazi methods” because Germany and other EU states did not allow Turkish politicians to run in election campaigns. Before the 2018 parliamentary and presidential elections, Erdogan struck out at Austria, which wanted to provoke a war between Western “crusaders” and the Islamic world.
Not all states should count on Erdogan’s anger. At the request of Saudi Arabia and with the encouragement of Erdogan’s government, a Turkish court last month dropped the Istanbul criminal case against the suspected killer of Saudi journalist Jamal Kaschoggi. Erdogan was then able to travel to Saudi Arabia last week to seal a fresh start in relations with the kingdom.