German minister says ready to contribute to Turkish – Kurdish peace process

4 February 2013 /AZAMAT DAMIR, İSMAIL ÇEVIK, BERLIN – German Federal Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich has welcomed the launching of peace talks between Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) for the eventual disarming of the terrorist group, saying that he was ready to contribute if there was anything he could do. “Being ready to establish dialogue and conduct talks is very important to solving disagreements. As the interior minister of Germany, I am ready to contribute to the solution of the PKK issue if there is anything that I may do,” he said in remarks to Today’s Zaman.

In response to a question over how German authorities assess the PKK in their country, Friedrich said Germany considers the PKK as a terrorist organization as do other European countries. “The activities of the PKK are being monitored by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution [BfV]. … We have no tolerance for terrorist activities in Germany,” he stated.

The minister, however, did not comment on Ömer Güney, whom French prosecutors named as the prime suspect in the murder of three PKK terrorists in Paris in January. When asked about the claims that Güney had previously lived in Germany for some time, Friedrich said he had discussed the issue with his French counterpart and an investigation was under way. “I will not make any speculations on this issue,” the minister noted. The minister is scheduled to make an official visit to Turkey later this week.

According to Friedrich, he will discuss cooperation against terrorism between Turkey and Germany with his Turkish counterpart, Muammer Güler. He also said he will comment on the expected visa exemption for Turkish citizens in Germany. “[German] Interior Minister Guido Westerwelle has facilitated — with my approval — the entry of Turkish businessmen in recent years,” he said, pointing out that there is currently a European Court of Justice decision that allows Turkish citizens traveling to Germany as truck drivers to enter the country without obtaining visas.

‘Initiative launched to promote measures against xenophobia’

When asked about Islamophobia in Germany, Friedrich said Germans do not consider Islam or Muslims as the “enemies.” “But an initiative has been launched to promote measures against Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in the country,” he stated.

Friedrich also said the four million Muslims living in Germany co-exist with other groups in peace. “Many Muslims contribute to our society. We cannot allow a small number of people disturbing the coexistence of our people. There is a clear fact at this point: Terrorists abuse religion for their political purposes. They terrorize society by hiding behind religion. Muslim organizations have, on various occasions, demanded that the term ‘Islamist’ not be used. They said the term brings all Muslims under suspicion. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu proposed that we use the term ‘extremists seeking religious purposes’ instead of Islamists. Yet, terms cannot be easily changed with a state intervention,” the minister noted.

Toward the end of 2011, Davutoğlu criticized Friedrich for using the term “Islamist terrorists” when the German minister had said his government is fighting against every kind of terrorist, including racists and Islamist terrorists.