Germany disputes claims on terrorism ahead of Merkel’s visit

Madame Merkel goes Anadolu, with Compliments about Öcalan talks & promises  of clashes against PKK in Germany

22 February 2013 /ABDULLAH BOZKURT, ANKARA – German diplomats in Ankara, speaking days before a visit by Chancellor Angela Merkel to Ankara, have disputed Turkish government claims that Germany did not respond to Ankara’s requests for cooperation regarding a suicide bomber who attacked the US Embassy in Ankara on Feb. 1.

They also said there was no official extradition request for the bomber, identified as Ecevit Şanlı, a member of the terrorist Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C). Şanlı was living in Germany before illegally coming to Turkey to stage the attack.

“As far as we know, there is no trace of an official document asking Germany to extradite Şanlı,” said a senior German diplomat, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “As for the cooperation, we have been pursuing very substantial dialogue with the Turkish government, contrary to reports that have appeared in the Turkish media,” he added, while admitting that there is always room for improvement in cooperation.

Interior Minister Muammer Güler asked his German counterpart, Hans Peter Friedrich, earlier this month in Ankara why the German state refused to cooperate in 2011 when Turkey that it apprehend and extradite this suspect. German authorities did not respond to Turkey’s request for Şanlı.

Turkish officials, including the prime minister, have increased their criticism of Germany, among others in the EU, for failing to crack down on the activities of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), saying that the PKK raises funds and garners logistical support in EU member states with impunity.

German diplomats say they are doing their best under the existing legal framework in Germany to go after the finances of the PKK and the DHKP/C, listed as foreign terrorist organizations in Germany. But their efforts have been hindered because front organizations affiliated with terrorist groups often change their names. “What is more, the network of these terrorist groups extends to other countries like France, Belgium and others. So we need the cooperation of these jurisdictions as well,” one diplomat explained. He also emphasized that Chancellor Merkel is very much interested in the fresh talks the government announced with the jailed leader of the PKK to pave the way for the group’s disarmament, as well as the constitutional process, “because we have some half a million people of Kurdish origin living in Germany.”

He stressed that Germany believes the terrorism problem should essentially be fixed in Turkey, adding that “Germany was encouraged with the recent process.”

The German diplomat’s remarks came ahead of Chancellor Merkel’s visit to Turkey, set to start on Sunday. She is expected to visit German soldiers manning German-provided Patriot missile batteries in Kahramanmaraş as a deterrent against Syrian missile threats. Merkel will spend Sunday visiting the historical Cappadocia region, famous for its early Christian settlements.

She will return to the Turkish capital on Monday to meet with President Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for political consultations. Merkel will also attend a business forum attended by CEOs of major companies on both sides organized by the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association (TÜSİAD) and the Federation of German Industries (BDI). The German chancellor came to Turkey in 2010, which was followed by Erdoğan’s visit to Berlin in November of last year.

Merkel’s upcoming visit was preceded by an increased number of visits by German officials to Turkey. German Interior Minister Friedrich came to Turkey on Feb. 5-7, while Federal Assembly Investigation Commission chief Sebastian Edathy, who is tasked with investigating neo-Nazi killings in Germany, paid a visit to Turkey from Feb. 14 to 15. He was accompanied by commission members from the Christian Democrats, the Social Democrats, the Liberal Party, the Greens and the Leftist Party. The German defense minister is also expected to come to Turkey this week.

Diplomats underlined that Turkish-German ties are very strong, referring to the German deployment of two Patriot anti-missile systems along the Turkish border with Syria as a firm commitment to defend NATO alliance member Turkey should Syria use its missiles against Turkey. Asked whether rising Islamophobia and xenophobia will be on the table when Merkel arrives, the German diplomat declined to discuss specific talking points on the chancellor’s agenda but said the German government is actively supporting the integration of immigrants. “There is broad consensus in Germany for this,” he said. Turkey is worried about rising Islamophobia in Germany, home to some 3 million Turks. The government criticized a poster campaign by the German Interior Ministry against a number of young Muslims who the ministry claims might be Islamist radicals or terrorists.

In a January 2013 report by the Islamophobia Observatory, run by the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the largest intergovernmental body after the UN, Germany was cited as a country where the anti-Muslim movement is on the rise. Citing a new German study conducted by German sociologist Wilhelm Heitmeyer, the OIC report said that “Islamophobia in Germany was becoming culturally acceptable, as bigotry left the confines of ethnicity and moved towards religious bias against Muslims.”

The report said a study from Münster University found that, in 2010, 66 percent of west Germans and 74 percent of east Germans had a negative attitude towards Muslims. A more recent study from the Allensbach Institute suggested that this had not changed over the past two years, as only 22 percent of Germans asked said they agreed with Germany’s former President Christian Wulff’s statement that Islam, like Christianity, was a part of Germany.

The German diplomat acknowledged that there is close cooperation on Syria between Turkey and Germany. “We support the Turkish position and extend help in taking care of refugees,” he said, adding that Germany has received by far the largest number of Syrian refugees in the 27-member EU bloc, without providing numbers. “There is a Syrian immigrant community in Germany and most of them go there to live with their extended relatives,” he stated.

Talking on Turkey’s soured relations with Israel, the diplomat expressed German interest in seeing Turkey mending fences with the Jewish state. “We hope to see an improvement in Turkey’s relations with Israel,” he noted.