In another sign of normalizing ties between Germany and Turkey, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel is planning to discuss a proposal to modernize the Turkish Armed Forces' (TSK) Leopard tanks at an upcoming meeting of state secretaries on arms exports.
According to the German weekly, Der Spiegel, "Gabriel instructed his house to put the issue of an upgrade on the agenda of the next round of acting state secretaries on arms exports to examine it favorably there."
The Turkish government previously requested the modernization of Leopard tanks last March, however, the talks failed due to the strained relations between the two countries. Rheinmetall CEO Armin Papperger noted last October that many projects, including the modernization of TSK's Leopard tanks and plans to jointly produce combat jet ammunition, were not approved by the German government.
"Ankara wants to equip its Leopard tanks with thicker floor plates to protect against booby traps and mines through the German arms company Rheinmetall. A sensor system for defense against anti-tank projectiles will also be installed," the Der Spiegel article said.
The issue of arms exports and tank modernization were reportedly discussed during a recent meeting between Gabriel and his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu earlier this month. Çavuşoğlu was invited to the German city of Goslar after he had hosted Gabriel in his own hometown Antalya a couple of months ago.
Gabriel had already suggested in the meeting that the modernization deal could be approved install the mine protection system. The federal government will examine the question very carefully, he said.
If the deal goes through, it would be a first since the German government froze all arms export to Turkey last year. Turkey-Germany relations soured after the July 15, 2016, failed coup attempt in Turkey. German politicians criticized Turkey's security crackdown since the coup, which saw thousands of Turkish nationals jailed over links with the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ).
The detainees also included around a dozen German nationals targeted for their connections to various terrorist groups.
Meanwhile, Ankara has criticized Berlin for not handing over asylum seekers it accuses of involvement in the failed coup, which left 250 people dead and injured 2,200 others. Turkey has also slammed Germany for turning a blind eye to the PKK terrorist group's activities within its borders.
However, the two sides took several steps to improve relations following the German elections last September.
Çavuşoğlu and Gabriel have both played key roles in the mending of the ties so far. The release of a number of German nationals from Turkish prisons, including German human rights activist Peter Steudtner and translator Meşale Tolu, has boosted the normalization of ties.
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