Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Wednesday called for a new era in relations with Germany, ahead of his key visit to Berlin on Thursday.
“Let us turn a new page, forget the past, look to the future and further strengthen our relations,” he stressed, in an interview with Germany’s public broadcaster ARD.
“Germany is the backbone of Europe. Turkey is the backbone of the region. Relations between Europe, Germany and Turkey are important not only due to the EU-Turkey relations, but also due to around four million Turkish immigrants,” he said.
Ties between Ankara and Berlin have been strained since the defeated coup in Turkey in 2016, as Turkish politicians heavily criticized their German counterparts for failing to show strong solidarity with Turkish government against the attempted military takeover.
Ankara slammed Berlin for granting asylum to several coup suspects, turning a blind eye to outlawed groups and terrorist organizations like PKK and FETO, which use Germany as a platform for their fund-raising, recruitment and propaganda activities.
German politicians on the other hand, voiced concern over press freedom and human rights issues, and criticized large-scale investigations into FETO, which orchestrated the coup attempt.
Turkish premier said he would have a frank discussion with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday, and discuss all issues of disagreement between the two governments.
Yildirim expressed hope for improved relations after Germany left behind a contentious election campaign, during which parties embraced an anti-Turkey rhetoric, opposed Turkey’s EU membership and criticized President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s policies.
“The elections are over, we are now in a new period. It is time to turn a new page,” Yildirim said.
When asked about German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel, who was arrested in Turkey last year on suspicion of terrorism propaganda, Yildirim ruled out any political influence on the court, but expressed hope for his release.
“This is not something I can decide on. It is for the courts to decide,” he stressed.
“Hopefully he would be released soon. I think that there would be a development soon,” he added.
The arrest of Yucel and around a dozen German citizens, on suspicion of aiding terrorist groups, had been a source of friction between Ankara and Berlin.
Despite repeated calls by German politicians for the release of their citizens, the Turkish government ruled out any political influence on the judiciary and advised them to wait for the decision of the courts.