Turkey takes aim at Berlin as arsonists target mosques

Turkey’s deputy prime minister, Bekir Bozdag. (REUTERS)
Updated 14 March 2018
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Turkey takes aim at Berlin as arsonists target mosques

ANKARA: A spate of attacks on Turkish mosques and businesses in Germany has drawn a sharp rebuke from Turkey only days before a key EU-Turkish summit.
Turkey issued a stern warning to Germany’s ambassador to Ankara and sent a diplomatic note to Berlin on Monday after several Turkish mosques, a cultural center and a Turkish vegetable shop in Germany were targeted by arsonists last week.
“The German government and its security forces have primary responsibility for the safety of Turkish citizens and other Muslims living in Germany,” Turkey’s deputy prime minister, Bekir Bozdag, said.
About 3 million people of Turkish descent live in Germany, including many ethnic Kurds.
The arson attacks have been blamed on Kurdish-led demonstrators in Germany who oppose Turkey’s military operation to drive out Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in the northern Syrian region of Afrin.
The developing crisis comes ahead of a key EU-Turkey summit set for March 26 in Varna, Bulgaria, where EU leaders will meet Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
However, experts believe the dispute is unlikely to escalate to the same level as the bilateral confrontation that followed the failed coup in Turkey last year.
Dr. Magdalena Kirchner, Mercator-IPC fellow at the Istanbul Policy Center, told Arab News that it was in Berlin’s interest to prevent the Turkish conflict with Syrian Kurds spilling over on to German territory.
German politicians and civil rights groups condemned the attacks, which damaged Turkish places of worship. Security agencies are also on the alert for further attacks against Turkish facilities in cities such as Berlin and Stuttgart.
Despite calls from Ankara, Germany and the Czech Republic have refused to extradite Salih Muslim, the former co-chair of the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD), which Turkey considers a terrorist group.
Muslim was arrested in Prague late last month. The Syrian Kurdish leader, who holds a resident’s permit in Finland, is on Turkey’s most-wanted terrorists’ list with a bounty of $1.05 million on his head. He has not filed for asylum in Germany.
“Ignoring Turkish calls for the arrest and extradition of Salih Muslim appears to be a consensus among European states as Swedish and Danish politicians have also refused to take action on behalf of Ankara,” Kirchner said.
“While this may add to Turkish frustration with its European partners because of the handling of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) on their territory, and could lead to a further erosion of trust in Europe among the wider Turkish public, it is unlikely that Ankara will take action against Germany or other EU member states,” she said.
German chancellor Angela Merkel has voiced support for closer dialogue between Turkey and the EU, praising Turkey’s efforts to welcome more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees.
“We cannot hide our differences, but communication channels should remain open. We are dependent on each other,” Merkel said in Berlin on Monday.
Both Ankara and Berlin have a vested interest in smoothing relations ahead of the EU-Turkey summit, said Kirchner.
“Although German policymakers do not favor Turkey’s military operations in Syria, the governing parties have not publicly spoken out against it,” she said.
The PKK has been outlawed in Germany since 1993, but it remains an active force with about 14,000 followers among the country’s Kurdish community.
Germany has banned the carrying of PKK symbols and flags during rallies, but holding symbols of other Kurdish groups — such as PYD and YPG, which are not considered terror organizations in Germany — is permitted.
“Setting fire to mosques is an overt act of terrorism and, in doing so, German supporters of PYD only reinforce Turkey’s accusations that PYD is a terrorist organization,” Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, Ankara director of the German Marshall Fund, said.
“This is an attack against Germany as much as against Turkey, and is taken lightly by neither German authorities nor German politicians.”
Paradoxically, the attacks could strengthen Germany’s resolve against PKK activities on its soil and contribute positively to Turkey-Germany relations, he said.


No quick breakthrough in Taliban talks, warns Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. (REUTERS)
Updated 56 min 49 sec ago
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No quick breakthrough in Taliban talks, warns Ghani

  • The Taliban do not trust Ghani ... and there is no possibility of any compromise between Ghani and the Taliban
  • Afghan president says deal not possible without a ‘regional consensus’

KABUL: President Ashraf Ghani said late on Friday that a breakthrough in Afghanistan’s peace process will require more time.
“We consider the US commitment to a political solution to be credible and are coordinating to build the necessary international consensus on peace. But without a regional consensus on peace and addressing Taliban’s interdependencies with their supporters, breakthroughs will take time,” Ghani said.
Ghani made the comments on Friday at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. His remarks are his first in public since a series of talks between US special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, and Taliban emissaries held in recent months in Qatar.
Afghan government delegates were excluded from the discussions because the Taliban consider Ghani’s administration a puppet of the West.
Khalilzad is in Afghanistan hoping to revive talks between the Taliban and other Afghans, including government delegates, after Ghani called off such a gathering in April in Qatar. Ghani summoned a grand traditional assembly, or Loya Jirga, afterwards in Kabul to set a mechanism for talks with the Taliban.
In Bishkek, Ghani said his government’s mandate for seeking peace with the Taliban comes from the 23-point resolution of the Jirga.
He said that “although the Afghan war is multi-dimensional, reaching a peace agreement with the Taliban is a key component for the reduction of violence.”
Ghani put forward four proposals for an Afghan peace deal. It includes the formation of a regional and international coalition for peace and the creation of a regional task force to develop bankable programs and projects for regional connectivity and poverty reduction.
He said dealing with drugs as a driver of conflict and criminality should be comprehensively addressed within the peace-making and peace-building framework. Agreeing to a regional framework for fighting terrorism was also essential.
Ghani said his government will hold the presidential elections on Sept. 28, which have been delayed twice so far. Some of Ghani’s rivals accuse him of using government resources in his favor for the poll, while other politicians, including Khalilzad, favor postponing the poll until the talks with Taliban have finished so that the latter can also take part in the elections.
Jamaludin Badar, a former governor who is a member of the government-appointed High Peace Council, said that, given the regional and international involvement in Afghanistan’s long war and the complication of the conflict, headway cannot been expected soon in the talks.
“There are countries in the region and beyond who want their interest to be protected in Afghanistan post the peace deal,” he told Arab News. “So it is natural for the peace process to drag on and on. These countries have a consensus on ending the war, but not on their interests and future involvement here.”
Nazar Mohammad Mutmaeen, an analyst, said: “Ghani wants to remain in power for another five years and makes different comments at different juncture of time. The Taliban do not trust Ghani ... and there is no possibility of any compromise between Ghani and the Taliban.”