On her first visit to Turkey this Friday, Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) must be prepared for interlocutors who feel strong enough to read their allies the riot act. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, whom Baerbock wants to meet on Friday, recently accused the West of wanting to drag out the Ukraine war in order to weaken Russia.
Turkey, on the other hand, is committed to peace, he told television channel TV100. Mediation missions have become a “trademark” for Turkey: “Not every country can do that.” In his own words, Baerbock wants to address “fundamental differences” between Germany and Turkey in Istanbul and Ankara.
The Ukraine war is likely to be one of the most important topics during the visit. Turkey and the UN reached an agreement last week to secure grain supplies from Ukraine to world markets.
The first ships could be loaded during Baerbock’s stay in Turkey. Before leaving, Baerbock paid tribute to Turkey’s mediation efforts in the Ukraine conflict. Ankara is an “indispensable partner”.
Turkey is not participating in Western sanctions against Russia and is the only NATO country with personal contacts with the Kremlin at the highest level. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met Vladimir Putin in Tehran last week and will travel to Russia next week for another meeting with Putin. Baerbock actually wanted to travel to Greece and Turkey in June, but had to cancel due to a corona infection; on Thursday the flight to Greece was scheduled first. She wants to hold talks there this Friday and then travel on to Istanbul and Ankara. The relationship between Turkey and the West has worsened rather than improved since June. Erdogan is threatening Greece with war over the dispute over islands in the Aegean Sea and, despite the basic agreement in NATO on the accession of Finland and Sweden, warns that Turkey’s approval of northern expansion is not yet a settled matter.
Erdogan accuses Helsinki and Stockholm of not keeping promises to extradite supporters of the Kurdish terrorist organization PKK. He also criticized Germany’s lax treatment of PKK supporters. Even for the crisis-tested relations between Turkey and Germany, the number of problems is enormous.
Baerbock announced that she wanted to speak about the Turkish-Greek tensions, the announced Turkish military intervention in Syria and human rights issues. She also wants to meet opposition representatives in Ankara. One of the German-Turkish controversies is the dispute over the Internet ban against Deutsche Welle in Turkey, says Kristian Brakel, Turkey head of the Heinrich Böll Foundation. He does not expect the minister’s trip to bring about a breakthrough in resolving important issues. Even before her visit, Baerbock had become unpopular with the Turkish leadership. In the ‘Bild’ she criticized Erdogan’s meeting with Putin and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran as “more than incomprehensible”. The spokesman for Erdogan’s ruling AKP party, Ömer Celik, responded by saying that he did not know “what the German foreign minister understands about diplomacy.” Baerbock will certainly not find understanding for Western concerns. “We can afford a lot because you will need us in the end,” is the Turkish guideline for dealing with criticism from the West, said Brakel. “That has always worked in recent years.”