Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called on Friday for a fresh start in his country’s rocky relationship with Germany, holding out the prospect of closer economic cooperation if ties improved.
But his German counterpart Sigmar Gabriel, who will host Cavusoglu for talks in his hometown of Goslar in central Germany on Saturday, made clear Turkey must first release a German-Turkish journalist detained for more than a year without charge.
“Both sides have an interest in a new start in the bilateral relationship as we live in a time full of challenges,” Cavusoglu wrote in a column for Germany’s Funke media group of newspapers. “It is not the time for bullhorn diplomacy.”
His comments underlined Turkey’s desire to mend fences with Germany, its biggest trade partner and an important Nato ally, following a series of acrimonious disagreements.
Cavusoglu urged Germany to develop a more “empathetic” tone in its dealings with Turkey. Berlin did not seem to fully understand the “trauma” caused by a failed coup against President Tayyip Erdogan in 2016, he said.
Gabriel struck a more cautious note in remarks on Friday.
“If we do not speak to one another the situation can certainly not improve – neither between our countries nor for individuals still being held in custody,” he told the weekly magazine Der Spiegel.
But, noting that Germany has refused to authorise “a large number of arms exports” to Turkey, he added: “That will remain so until the case of (Deniz) Yucel has been solved.”
Turkish authorities have accused Yucel, a correspondent for the German daily Die Welt, of spreading propaganda for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). He denies the charge.
Turkey also detained dozens of other German citizens amid a much wider security crackdown since the failed 2016 coup.
But since Gabriel visited Turkey last year, it has released six of them, prompting the minister last month to express hope that bilateral relations could start to improve.
German politicians have been outspoken critics of Turkey’s post-coup crackdown, in which some 50,000 people have been arrested pending trial and 150,000, including teachers, judges and soldiers, have been sacked or suspended from their jobs.
Turkey says the crackdown, targeting alleged supporters of a Muslim network it blames for the coup, is necessary on security grounds. Ankara has criticised Germany’s refusal to hand over asylum seekers it says were involved in the failed putsch.
Cavusoglu said improved ties would allow the two countries to work more closely in areas including security and trade.
He said trade between Germany and Turkey amounted to €174 billion in the last five years, with major opportunities in the coming decade from big infrastructure projects, in particular in transport and renewable energy.
Cavusoglu also stressed Turkey’s role in stemming a wave of migrants to Germany under a deal with the European Union in 2016 and said he hoped the EU would live up to its commitments to make it easier for Turks to get visas to visit the bloc.
A thaw in bilateral ties would bring relief to Turkey’s vital tourist industry, badly hit by a series of militant attacks as well as warnings from Germany and other European governments about the risk of arbitrary detention there.