Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is putting at risk his country’s centuries-old ties to Germany, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said in a newspaper interview, as tensions escalate between the Nato allies.
Bilateral relations have deteriorated following the arrest by Turkey of six rights activists, including one German, two weeks ago as part of a wider crackdown since a failed coup against Erdogan last year.
“He is jeopardising the centuries-old partnership,” Schaeuble said of Erdogan.
“It is dramatic, as there is really a lot that connects us. But we can’t allow ourselves to be blackmailed,” the minister said in an interview with daily Bild published on Monday.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff said on Sunday that Turkey’s behaviour was “unacceptable” and Germany had a duty to protect its citizens and companies, but also wanted to maintain strong bilateral ties.
Tensions were already high after bitter recriminations during a referendum in April on extending Erdogan’s powers and a pullout of German troops from a Turkish air base that began this month.
Ankara has refused to let German lawmakers visit soldiers at two air bases. Volker Kauder, head of Merkel’s conservative bloc in parliament, said this was unacceptable.
“It worries me that we have a Nato country that forbids visits by other Nato members,” Kauder told broadcaster ARD. “This is an intolerable situation and we must say clearly to Turkey: this is not on.”
Germany has warned its nationals travelling to Turkey that they did so at their own risk, and Schaeuble was quoted on Friday as comparing Turkey with the former communist East German state, the German Democratic Republic.
In March, German authorities barred Turkish ministers from speaking at mass rallies of expatriates backing the president’s referendum campaign. He responded by accusing Berlin of “fascist actions”.
The activist arrests were part of a broader crackdown since last year’s failed coup. More than 150,000 people have been sacked or suspended from jobs in Turkey’s civil service, military and private sector and more than 50,000 have been jailed.