Germany: No coalition agreement yet on Turkey policy

Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative CDU/CSU bloc and its potential coalition partners could not yet reach a common position on policy regarding Turkey, senior party officials said on Thursday.

Nicola Beer, secretary general of the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) told reporters after preliminary coalition talks that more time was needed to bridge differences on Turkey’s EU membership negotiations.

“We are seeing the possibility of an agreement towards not opening and closing particular chapters in Turkey’s EU membership talks,” she said.

“With regards to suspending or terminating these talks, we need more discussions,” she added.

Thursday’s talks among the CDU/CSU, FDP and the Greens were focused on European topics, including EU-Turkey ties, issues of rule of law in a number of EU member states, as well as the Brexit negotiations.

'Merkel opposed proposed text'

Peter Tauber, secretary general of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), stressed that EU-Turkey relations have been one of the significant topics in preliminary coalition talks.

German daily Der Tagesspiegel reported that Merkel had opposed on Thursday a proposed text that called for terminating Turkey’s EU membership process, underlining that the majority of EU member states were against such a move.

The Greens, which have long backed democratic reforms in Turkey, also opposed terminating Turkey’s EU membership talks, according to the daily.

Earlier on Thursday, CDU’s sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), renewed its opposition to Turkey’s full membership into the EU, and argued for strong wording in the common position paper.

Tensions between Berlin and Ankara

Chancellor Angela Merkel came under enormous pressure from her rivals ahead of the Sept. 24 elections to sharpen her tone towards Turkey amid recent tensions, but she opposed calls to take harsh measures, and underlined the importance of maintaining a dialogue with Ankara.

Ties between Turkey and Germany have been strained in recent months as Turkish leaders have heavily criticized their German counterparts for turning a blind eye to outlawed groups and terrorist organizations like the PKK and the Fetullah Terror Organization (FETO) which use the country as a platform.

Ankara accuses FETO and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen of having orchestrated the defeated coup attempt of July 15, 2016, which left 250 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.

German officials criticized Ankara over the arrest of around a dozen German citizens, including a reporter and an interpreter, on suspicion of aiding and abetting a terrorist organisation.

Turkish officials have repeatedly underlined the independence of judiciary in Turkey and ruled out any political influence by the government with regards to the cases involving German citizens.

On Wednesday, an Istanbul court ordered the release of German human rights activist Peter Steudtner from prison pending trial, along with seven other suspects who were accused of being members of and aiding an armed terror organization.

They were arrested in a police raid during a meeting on Buyukada Island off Istanbul in July.