Turkey EU row deepens over Merkel comments

Mrs Merkel on Monday criticised the crackdown by security forces on Turkish protesters as 'much too strong. Picture: Getty'
Mrs Merkel on Monday criticised the crackdown by security forces on Turkish protesters as 'much too strong. Picture: Getty'
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THE diplomatic dispute over Turkey’s EU membership bid – and a crackdown on demonstrations – intensified yesterday as Germany reacted to comments about chancellor Angela Merkel.

Germany summoned the Turkish ambassador to its foreign ministry over remarks made by a Turkish minister

Mrs Merkel on Monday criticised the crackdown by security forces on Turkish protesters as “much too strong.”

Unrest began in late May as a small sit-in over the planned demolition of the Gezi Park but has spiralled into far wider anti-government protests.

The chancellor has long been sceptical of Turkey’s ambitions to join the European Union. Her coalition government supports continuing membership talks, but this week blocked a decision to move forward the ­negotiations.

Turkey’s minister in charge of EU affairs, Egemen Bagis, suggested on Thursday that Mrs Merkel was picking on Turkey for political gain as she attempts to win a third term in September elections.

Mr Bagis said if Mrs Merkel is looking for “internal political material,” then “this should not be Turkey”. He pointed to the election defeat last year of then-French president Nicolas Sarkozy, a fellow opponent of Turkey’s EU membership.

“If Mrs Merkel follows and reviews what happened to Sarkozy, who previously tried to use [Turkey] as political material, she will see that the fate of those who mess around with Turkey is not all that good,” said Mr Bagis, who is Turkey’s chief EU ­negotiator.

A Turkish foreign ministry spokesman said the country’s ambassador to Germany ­Huseyin Avni Karslioglu was summoned to the foreign ministry ­yesterday.

He said the reason was comments by a Turkish official ­regarding Germany and the future of the EU membership talks, adding: “These are comments that met with incomprehension – this is not in order.”

In an apparent tit-for-tat ­action, Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Germany’s top diplomat was being summoned to his country’s foreign ministry, because the government wanted to express its “discomfort” with what he called “certain statements that have disturbed Turkey”.

Mr Davutoglu did not specify what statements he meant.

Mr Bagis said yesterday that he hoped Germany “steps back from [the] serious mistake” of blocking progress in Turkey’s membership talks.

Last month, German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle said he was hopeful of opening negotiations on another chapter in the membership talks before the end of June. But on Thursday, Germany and the Netherlands blocked a decision to do so.

That chapter concerns regional policies, not Turkey’s protests. Asked whether the decision to block its opening was linked to the crackdown, a Turkish foreign ministry spokesman said it was down to “open technical questions”.

He added that “of course, as ­always in life, everything is linked to everything else.”

Human rights groups have said the protests in Turkey have left more than 5,000 people ­injured and more than 3,000 were detained and then released.

The demonstrations were sparked by a police crackdown on environmental activists in Istanbul, but protesters also criticised what some regard as prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s authoritarian style of leadership.