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Saturday, December 9, 2023

Erdoğan after visiting Germany: First meet, then gossip

After the talks with Scholz and Steinmeier, the Turkish president presented himself as a tough negotiator. Things were probably quite amicable.

Erdogan and Steinmeier in Bellevue Palace

At home with crusaders: Erdoğan with Steinmeier in Bellevue Palace Photo: Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Turkish Presidential Press Office/via rtr

After the meeting between Olaf Scholz and the Turkish President at the weekend, the federal government the constructive approaches in the talks with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan emphasized. In Russia’s war against Ukraine, the Federal Chancellor and the Turkish President agreed that Moscow “continues to be urgently called upon to end the war of aggression against Ukraine,” German government circles said on Saturday.

However, when it comes to dealing with the Middle East conflict, the differences between Scholz and Erdoğan are significant. Barely back in Turkey, accused Erdoğan “the West” of “crusader imperialism”. He saw that with the Federal President and “with the other one too,” said the Turkish President on Saturday in Istanbul during a speech to the National Turkish Student Union. By “the other” Erdoğan probably meant Scholz, with whom he had had dinner in Berlin a few hours earlier.

“What they say is: Hamas, Hamas, Hamas,” Erdoğan told the students about his talks in Berlin. “Germany says Hamas violence on October 7 triggered this situation. Of course I told them: thirteen thousand children, women and elderly people have been killed by Israel. Why don’t you talk about it?”

The Turkish president addressed Scholz from Istanbul, described Palestinians captured in Israel as “hostages” and brought Turkey into play as a negotiator with Hamas. But only under one condition: Germany should work for the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israel. “And we will endeavor to advocate for the release of those who are currently in the hands of Hamas.” But Scholz refused, Erdoğan said. The speech to the Turkish student body shows how much the Turkish President the current war also used in the Middle East for domestic political profiling.

At the press conference on Friday evening in Berlin, which took place before the exchange with Scholz, Erdoğan chose more moderate words. Here too he spoke about the Palestinian prisoners in Israel, criticized the high number of civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip and called for a ceasefire. Like Scholz, however, he committed himself to a two-state solution in the long term, which he described as the only sustainable path to peace in the Middle East. This sentence was hardly mentioned in the Turkish media.

After the conversation, German government circles said that both politicians had discussed “possible perspectives for the Gaza Strip and the Middle East conflict.” The Chancellor emphasized the German stance of solidarity with Israel and “clearly” condemned the terrorist attack by Hamas. The exchange also focused on the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the release of hostages.

The fact that the conversation was probably more constructive in places than Erdoğan wants to sell it in retrospect is also due to the desolate economic situation in Turkey and the Turkish president’s hope of reinstating the country’s economic ties to the EU and Germany. In Berlin, Erdoğan publicly expressed his desire to finally move forward with Ankara’s accession to the EU and announced that he also wanted to talk about economic issues.

One of the agenda items on the Chancellor’s list was reviving the EU-Turkey migration agreement. After the meeting, German participants said that Scholz and Erdoğan welcomed the fact that “intensive work on this” was now being carried out within the framework of a newly established bilateral working group of the interior authorities. The group is tasked with “coming to an early, mutually agreed conclusion.”

Another topic that both politicians agreed on was that more imams should be trained in Germany in the future. The sending of clergy from Turkey to Germany should be “gradually ended”.

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