PM Yıldırım, Merkel to discuss recovery of bilateral ties


Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım is meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel today at the Chancellery in Berlin to discuss bilateral relations along with recent international and regional developments. The request for the meeting, which is being held as part of Yıldırım's visit to Germany for a security conference in Munich, reportedly came from Ankara, and Berlin confirmed the meeting two days before Yıldırım's planned arrival. Relations between the two countries have been strained since the defeated 2016 coup in Turkey as Turkish politicians criticize their German counterparts for failing to show strong solidarity with Ankara.

While Ankara says support or indifference from the German government concerning the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) and the PKK is crippling ties, Berlin insists on the release of all German citizens in Turkish prisons to put ties back on track.

However, significant developments in recovering ties came recently, and Yıldırım's meeting with Merkel is regarded as the latest sign of mending German-Turkish relations. The two countries took steps recently to toward normalization and intensified talks to address their political differences on several issues.

German citizen Meşale Tolu was released late in December followingthe release of German human rights activist Peter Steudtner and two other German nationals whose names were not disclosed. However, German journalist Deniz Yücel has remained in pretrial detention since last year.

Speaking on the issue yesterday to German ARD television, PM Yıldırım raised the prospect that a German-Turkish journalist could soon be freed from prison, something that would remove what Berlin considers a major impediment to normalizing relations.

Yücel, a reporter for the German Die Welt daily, was jailed a year ago on suspicion of spreading propaganda in support of a terrorist organization and inciting violence.

"I hope that he will be freed soon. I think that there will be a development soon," Yıldırım told the German broadcaster in an interview. He added, however, that it is not up to him, to the court.

As for Berlin, it remains unclear if Gülenists in Germany will be extradited or if German police will toughen their stance on PKK sympathizers. PKK supporters have targeted mosques and Turkish-German civilians numerous times recently, and vandalized a Social Democratic Party (SPD) building in Germany on Monday.

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