Heiko Maas is hoping for a new beginning in relation to Turkey


You go on two terms, there is no public criticism: the appearance of a German and a Turkish foreign minister has not been as friendly as this Monday. Heiko Maas hopes for better relationships.

After the natural gas dispute in the Eastern Mediterranean has been defused, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is hoping for a fresh start in the troubled relations between the EU and Turkey. “Now it’s a matter of getting out of the difficult discussions of last year,” said Maas on Monday after a meeting with his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. One now has to come to a positive agenda. “I would very, very much like to see relations between the EU and Turkey improve, be deepened, and use all possibilities and potential.”

Extremely friendly: Heiko Maas (left) and Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Foreign Minister of Turkey, on Monday (source: dpa)

The aim is to bring the relations between Germany and the EU to Turkey “sustainably into a constructive, forward-looking development.” That started with a “very friendly and constructive conversation”. Çavuşoğlu also never tired of stressing that there was a “positive atmosphere”. The two ministers turned to face each other and spoke to each other as “Dear Heiko” and “Dear Mevlüt”.

Military escalation threatened

That was not always so. Relations between Turkey and the EU deteriorated dramatically in the past year. Among other things, the dispute over natural gas with EU member Greece weighed on the relationship. It would have escalated almost militarily. The EU had imposed sanctions, but there were no severe punitive measures for the time being.

Turkey has been focusing on relaxation for a few weeks. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdğoan repeatedly emphasizes that his country wants to improve relations with the EU. The conflict with Greece had also calmed down recently. On January 25, the two countries want to resume their talks on a solution to the gas dispute for the first time since 2016. Maas said this was a first step in the right direction and a “good signal for the stability of the entire region”. The window for a diplomatic solution was opened a crack again.

Cuddle course also for economic reasons

The new cuddle course from Ankara is likely to have economic reasons, among other things. The inflation rate is 14.6 percent, food in particular is becoming more and more expensive. In December, the United States also decided to sanction Turkey against the use of the Russian S-400 missile defense system. The relationship between Turkey and the USA could also become more difficult with the swearing-in of Joe Biden as US President. Relations with the EU could become more important again.

Çavuşoğlu emphasized that it was hoped that the positive atmosphere with the EU would endure. He accused Greece again of provoking Turkey, among other things, with military exercises: “But unfortunately Greece continues with its provocations in this phase too,” he said. When asked about possible new sanctions against Turkey, he said: “We are not a country that fears sanctions.”

Roth: The human rights situation must change radically

Bundestag Vice President Claudia Roth warned that an improvement in relations with the EU should not only be linked to issues such as relaxation in the eastern Mediterranean or a new refugee deal. “There can only be an improved relationship with the EU if the human rights situation in Turkey changes radically for the better,” she told the German press agency.

She referred, for example, to the cases of the cultural promoter Osman Kavala and the opposition politician Selahattin Demirtaş, who have both been imprisoned for years. The trial of Gönül Örs from Cologne for terrorist allegations in Istanbul will continue on Thursday. Örs is not allowed to leave the country. Maas said he did not comment on individuals but had discussed such cases with Çavuşoğlu. Maas did not publicly criticize the human rights situation in the country.

Maas wishes Özil all the best for moving to Istanbul

At the end, small swipes were given. When asked about Mesut Özil’s move to Fenerbahçe Istanbul, Çavuşoğlu said to Maas: “I hope you don’t mind if Mesut meets with our president, Heiko.”

In the past, Özil had repeatedly come under fire in Germany for his proximity to Erdoğan. Maas countered: “For his sporting success it is above all important that he speaks a lot with his coach.” He wishes Özil all the best for his start.

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