Hopes rise for improved Turkish-German ties

The pilgrim David Britsch speaks with a journalist in his home in Schwerin, eastern Germany, on December 22, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 22 December 2017

Hopes rise for improved Turkish-German ties

ANKARA: There is new hope for an improvement in Turkish-German relations with the release on Thursday of 55-year-old German pilgrim David Britsch, and three days prior of Mesale Tolu, a German journalist of Turkish origin.
“Months of uncertainty and waiting in detention in Turkey are finally over,” said German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel.
“Decisions like this make us hope we can rebuild confidence and the bilateral relationship step by step.”
Gabriel said he agreed with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu to continue talks on unresolved issues.
Britsch was reportedly arrested by Turkish authorities near the border with Syria en route to his pilgrimage in Jerusalem.
Tolu was released on Monday, after spending some eight months in prison, on condition that she not return to Germany.
Seven Germans are still being held in Turkey on terror charges, among them Turkish-German journalist Deniz Yucel.
Tensions between the two NATO members reached a peak with the arrests of several German nationals in Turkey, and Turkish politicians being prevented from political rallying during the election campaign earlier this year in Germany, which is home to about 3 million Turks.
Due to a lack of evidence, German federal prosecutors recently dropped an inquiry into Turkish-origin Muslim clerics who had been suspected of spying in Germany on behalf of the Turkish government. Last month, German activist Peter Steudtner was released after his arrest in July in Istanbul.
“Although German officials will continue to pressure for the release of Yucel and the formal end of the trials against Tolu and Steudtner, the releases — especially before Christmas — are an important signal for the new German government,” Magdalena Kirchner, a fellow at the Istanbul Policy Center, told Arab News.
Gabriel’s meetings with Cavusoglu in Turkey, and the involvement of former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder, were influential in the recent releases, Kirchner said.
“These are positive signals that might restore at least some of the trust that was lost in the turbulent recent months,” she added.
Schroder is known to have warm personal ties with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Some news reports said Schroder helped broker the release of some German nationals last month, but Ankara denies this.
Alper Ucok, Berlin representative of the Turkish Industry and Business Association (TUSIAD), said the recent releases can be read as signs of goodwill by Turkey to rebuild trust between the two countries.
“Turkey is seeking to restore good relations with Germany in particular, and with Europe in general,” Ucok told Arab News.
“Ankara seems determined to give fresh impetus to the EU front, including the revitalization of the visa-liberalization process and long-sought customs-union modernization,” he said.
“Berlin remains one of the most important actors for Turkish foreign policy, if not the key one.”
Bilateral ties are very resilient and will eventually normalize, as long as both sides address each other’s concerns constructively and with empathy, Ucok added.
“Already some major steps were taken to restore ties, including the high-level bilateral contacts of last month,” he said.
“Presumably, in these conversations some mutual steps toward reconciliation were discussed, and now they’re being implemented.”
While Ucok is optimistic about progress toward normalization of ties in 2018, he said: “There is still a long way to go to return to the status quo ante.”
He added: “Even if the political sphere restarts dialogue and reconciliation, public opinion might take longer than expected to improve.”
According to a recent survey by the Turkish European Foundation for Education and Scientific Studies (TAVAK), 67.2 percent of Turks think reconciliation with Germany is necessary. Germany is Turkey’s primary trade partner and largest export market.


India celebrates Republic Day with military parade

Updated 33 min 45 sec ago

India celebrates Republic Day with military parade

  • Schoolchildren, folk dancers, and police and military battalions marched through New Delhi’s parade route

NEW DELHI: Thousands of Indians converged on a ceremonial boulevard in the capital amid tight security to celebrate the Republic Day on Sunday, which marks the 1950 anniversary of the country’s democratic constitution.
During the celebrations, schoolchildren, folk dancers, and police and military battalions marched through New Delhi’s parade route, followed by a military hardware display.
Beyond the show of military power, the parade also included ornate floats highlighting India’s cultural diversity as men, women and children in colorful dresses performed traditional dances, drawing applause from the spectators.
The 90-minute event, broadcast live, was watched by millions of Indians on their television sets across the country.
Brazilian President Jair Messias Bolsonaro was the chief guest for this year’s celebrations.
He was accorded the ceremonial Guard of Honor by President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Rashtrapati Bhawan, the sprawling presidential palace.
Bolsonaro joined the two Indian leaders as the military parade marched through a central avenue near the Presidential Palace.
At the parade, Bolsonaro watched keenly as mechanized columns of Indian tanks, rocket launchers, locally made nuclear-capable missile systems and other hardware rolled down the parade route and air force jets sped by overhead.
Apart from attending the Republic Day celebrations, Bolsonaro’s visit was also aimed at strengthening trade and investment ties across a range of fields between the two countries.
On Saturday, Modi and Bolsonaro reached an agreement to promote investment in each other’s country.
Before the parade, Modi paid homage to fallen soldiers at the newly built National War Memorial in New Delhi as the national capital was put under tight security cover.
Smaller parades were also held in the state capitals.
Police said five grenades were lobbed in the eastern Assam state by separatist militants who have routinely boycotted the Republic Day celebrations. No one was injured, police said.
Sunday’s blasts also come at a time when Assam has been witnessing continuous protests against the new citizenship law that have spread to many Indian states.
The law approved in December provides a fast-track to naturalization for persecuted religious minorities from some neighboring Islamic countries, but excludes Muslims.
Nationwide protests have brought tens of thousands of people from different faiths and backgrounds together, in part because the law is seen by critics as part of a larger threat to the secular fabric of Indian society.