Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu criticized Germany for losing its neutral stance and called on Berlin to adopt an impartial stance regarding its mediator role with regards to the dispute between Turkey and Greece. He also urged the country to take concrete steps against terrorist groups.
Urging Germany to be wary of provocations and propaganda by Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, the foreign minister stressed the need for a balanced stance in a joint news conference with his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock in Istanbul on Friday.
"Germany had a neutral stance as a mediator regarding disputes between Turkey, Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration but it has lost its impartiality," he said.
He continued by saying that Germany should not heed "propaganda" from the Greek side regarding its standoff with Turkey, including on the countries' disputed maritime border.
"The Greek islands of Lesbos, Chios, Rhodes and many others are Greek territories and nobody has the right to question them," Baerbock said alongside Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias in Athens earlier on Friday.
"We cannot solve the problems of the Eastern Mediterranean by escalating tensions," she added.
Çavuşoğlu retorted: "Why are you closing your eyes to Greece's unlawful actions?"
Turkey and Germany developed a warm friendship in the era of former Chancellor Angela Merkel.
"When Merkel was there, Germany's position was balanced," Çavuşoğlu said. "It could do mediation."
Germany played a central role in helping calm another spike in tensions between Ankara and Athens in 2020.
Baerbock's visit to Athens saw Greek Foreign Minister Dendias call on Germany to suspend a joint venture under which Turkey is producing a modern new class of submarines.
Berlin has previously argued that it cannot suspend a commercial agreement signed by Germany's Thyssen Krupp Marine Systems.
Neighbors and NATO allies Turkey and Greece are at odds over a number of issues, including competing claims over jurisdiction in the Eastern Mediterranean, overlapping claims over their continental shelves, maritime boundaries, airspace, energy, the ethnically split island of Cyprus, the status of the islands in the Aegean Sea and migrants.
Turkey, in recent months, has stepped up criticism of Greece stationing troops on islands in the eastern Aegean, near the Turkish coast and, in many cases, visible from the shore. These islands were required to be demilitarized under the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne and the 1947 Treaty of Paris, so any troops or weapons on the islands are strictly forbidden. Also, Turkey and Greece have traded accusations of airspace violations in recent months. Turkey is demanding that Greece demilitarize its eastern islands, maintaining the action is required under 20th-century treaties that ceded sovereignty of the islands to Greece. Turkish authorities say the Greeks have stationed troops on Aegean islands in violation of the peace treaties that followed World War I and World War II.
Despite saying that it has no intention of entering into an arms race with its neighbor and NATO ally Turkey, Greece also continues to carry out an ambitious rearmament program for its armed forces. Greece's burgeoning arms program is designed to counter the protection of Turkish interests in the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkey has often warned Greece against indulging in an arms race, offering instead to resolve all outstanding issues, including in the Aegean, the Eastern Mediterranean and the island of Cyprus, through dialogue.
"We conveyed Turkey’s concerns regarding terrorist organizations’ activities in Germany and expect concrete actions from them," Çavuşoğlu said.
Baerbock responded to Çavuşoğlu's criticism by saying that Germany recognizes the PKK as a terrorist group and the laws treat them as such and that attacks targeting Turkish people in the country are prosecuted.
The PKK terrorist group raised an estimated 16.7 million euros ($17.8 million) in Germany last year, and also raised more than 30 million euros in Europe in various fundraising campaigns, according to a report by the German domestic intelligence agency BfV.
Since 2013, at least 295 foreign fighters from Germany traveled to northern Syria and Iraq where they received military training from PKK terrorists and took part in armed attacks in the region, according to the report.
At least 30 of these foreign fighters died in battle zones, while nearly 150 of them returned to Germany in recent years, the report said, without giving any further details.
According to the BfV, followers of the PKK terrorist group committed more than 300 crimes last year in Germany, including violent attacks, resulting in personal injury and property damage. At least nine people were injured in these attacks.
The Turkish foreign minister also expressed concern over rising xenophobia and Islamophobia in Europe and Germany.
Germany has experienced a rise in racism and Islamophobia in recent years. Germany is home to 84 million people and hosts the second-largest Muslim population in Western Europe after France. Of the country’s nearly 5 million Muslims, at least 3 million are of Turkish descent.
The Turkish community in Europe is concerned with the rising trend of Islamophobia and Turkophobia in Western countries and has called on European states to escalate measures against hate crimes.
Turkish officials, including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, have frequently urged European decision-makers and politicians to take a stance against racism and other types of discrimination that have threatened the lives of millions of people living within the bloc’s borders.
He noted that Ankara expects European Union to lift political obstacles for membership.