Ankara (AP) – After the natural gas dispute in the Eastern Mediterranean has been settled, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas hopes for a new start in the difficult relations between the EU and Turkey.
“Now it is a matter of getting out of last year’s difficult discussions,” Maas said Monday after a meeting with his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Cavusoglu. A positive agenda must now be developed. “I would really like to see relations between the EU and Turkey better and deeper and that all possibilities and possibilities be exploited.”
The aim is to make relations between Germany and the EU with Turkey “sustainable to a constructive, forward-looking development”. That started with a “very friendly and constructive conversation”. Cavusoglu also never tired of emphasizing that there was a ‘positive atmosphere’. The two ministers turned to each other and spoke to each other with “Dear Heiko” and “Dear Mevlüt”.
That was not always the case. Relations between Turkey and the EU have deteriorated dramatically over the past year. Among other things, the dispute over natural gas with EU member Greece weighed on the relationship. It would have almost escalated militarily. The EU had imposed sanctions, but there were no severe penalties for the time being.
Turkey has been focusing on relaxation for a few weeks now. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan emphasizes time and again that his country wants to improve relations with the EU. The conflict with Greece had also calmed down recently. On January 25, the two countries want to resume talks on a solution to the gas dispute for the first time since 2016. Maas calls this a first step in the right direction and a “good signal for the stability of the entire region”. The window for a diplomatic solution opened again.
The new cuddle track from Ankara probably has economic reasons, among other things. The inflation rate is 14.6 percent, food in particular is becoming increasingly expensive. In December, the United States also decided to sanction Turkey against the use of Russia’s S-400 missile defense system. The relationship between Turkey and the US could also get more difficult with Joe Biden’s inauguration as US president. Relations with the EU could become more important again.
Cavusoglu stressed that it was hoped that the positive atmosphere with the EU would continue. He again accused Greece of provoking Turkey, including military exercises: “Unfortunately, Greece is continuing its provocations even at this stage,” he said. When asked about possible new sanctions against Turkey, he said, “We are not a country that fears sanctions.”
Claudia Roth, Vice-President of the Bundestag, warned that improving relations with the EU should not only be related to things like relaxation in the Eastern Mediterranean or a new refugee deal. “Relations with the EU can only be improved if the human rights situation in Turkey changes radically for the better,” she told the German news agency. For example, she referred to the cases of cultural promoter Osman Kavala and opposition politician Selahattin Demirtas, both of whom have been detained for years. The trial of Gönül Örs from Cologne on terrorism allegations in Istanbul will continue on Thursday. Örs is not allowed to leave the country. Maas said he did not comment on individuals but discussed such cases with Cavusoglu. Maas has not publicly criticized the human rights situation in the country.
Small swipes were given at the end. When asked about Mesut Ozil’s move to Fenerbahce Istanbul, Cavusoglu told Maas, “I hope you don’t mind Mesut meeting our president, Heiko.” In the past, Ozil in Germany had repeatedly come under fire for his proximity to Erdogan. Maas objected: “For his sporting success it is especially important that he talks a lot with his trainer.”