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.

Malaysian fish farm aims to dip into $1.64bn global caviar market

Updated 10 min 51 sec ago

Malaysian fish farm aims to dip into $1.64bn global caviar market

  • Owners of luxury T’lur Caviar brand ‘accidentally’ stumbled upon prized delicacy
  • alaysia does not have a proper winter, sturgeon can be harvested there 50 percent faster than globally

KUALA LUMPUR: A Malaysian fish farming business is hoping to dip into the multibillion-dollar global market for caviar after accidentally stumbling into producing the gourmet delicacy.

When Taiwanese entrepreneur Chien Wei Ho, one of the owners of the T’lur Caviar brand, first started harvesting sturgeon in Malaysia, he never expected to end up in the lucrative caviar trade.

Wei Ho and his group of Malaysian sturgeon farmers were based in a country not best-suited for harvesting caviar, mainly due to a lack of technological support and unfavorable weather conditions.

It was only after 10 years of sturgeon farming that the business partners “accidentally” discovered the “gold mine” after one of the fish had to be euthanized. When they cut it open, its egg sack was full of caviar.

“He (Wei Ho) was taken aback. For many years he had been told the fish could not have caviars,” Shaun Kenneth Simon, T’lur’s chief marketing officer told Arab News.

A company director came up with the idea to “market the caviars instead of just selling fish,” and before long they were swimming against the tide cultivating the prized delicacy for Malaysian clients.

“What we are doing here is very different from other countries. We discovered the caviars by chance,” said Simon.

He said that 12 years ago, Wei Ho – who also owns several resorts in Taiwan – was cultivating fish and flower farms and was well-known for growing beautiful orchids. “Rearing sturgeon was just a hobby for him.”

However, when a typhoon struck Taiwan and destroyed all his farms, Wei Ho decided to look for a safer place to operate from.

“Through his friends, he came to Tanjung Malim, in Perak, where he decided to dabble in the sturgeon farm business in Malaysia,” Simon said.

Malaysia was the obvious choice, he added, especially since it was rarely impacted by natural disasters such as typhoons and earthquakes.

Nevertheless, big challenges were in store for Wei Ho. Experts, including a German aquaculture specialist, warned that the fish would probably not live past three years old, let alone lay eggs.

“Malaysia has a warm tropical climate and without any expensive, climate-controlled machinery to keep the water cool, many advised Wei Ho that the fish would not survive,” Simon added.

To overcome the hurdle, Wei Ho used local aquaculture techniques to acclimatize the sturgeon to Malaysia’s climate. “Basically, we taught the fish how to survive in Malaysia’s temperature.”

The process worked, but Wei Ho had only planned to rear and sell the fish, not harvest caviar.

Sturgeon have a lucrative market potential because they are high in collagen and rich in omega oils. Because Malaysia does not have a proper winter, sturgeon can be harvested there 50 percent faster than anywhere else in the world.

Seven species are reared on the farm, but the ones used for caviar are Siberian and Amur.

The brand name T’lur also came about by chance. “Because international brands have cool names, we thought ‘why not call it telur?’ which means eggs in Malay language. And because we were all Malaysians, we put an apostrophe in the word to make it sound French,” Simon said.

Currently, T’lur caviar is marketed only in Malaysia despite growing demand from neighboring countries, but the company is planning to go global. Most of its customers are chefs from fine-dining city restaurants.

“We are bringing something new to Malaysia, which is not really known for producing luxury products. We are learning to refine this further to bring it to a higher standard,” he added.

Caviar is a high-end luxury delicacy that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per kilogram. One of the most expensive in the luxury market is beluga caviar, mainly found in the world’s largest salt-water lake, the Caspian Sea.

With an insatiable appetite for fish eggs from several countries around the world, the market for the product is expected to be worth $1.64 billion (SR6.11 billion) by 2025, according to a survey conducted by Adroit Market Research.

The study revealed that greater access to international cuisine, along with stronger purchasing powers, had seen demand soar.