A number of pro-government Turkish newspapers have launched stinging attacks on Germany, accusing Berlin of supporting Turkish terror groups and shielding prosecutors in exile who are wanted by Turkish courts.
The attacks came days after German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen announced on Saturday that the country would pull two Patriot missile batteries from Turkey in early 2016, ending a three-year presence to strengthen Turkish air defences out of fear that the Syrian Civil War would further spread across its border.
On Monday, pro-government newspapers in Turkey ran several articles claiming Berlin is supporting both the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) group, which has fought a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish government, and the Turkish leftist Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party–Front (DHKP-C) group, which has conducted a series of assassinations and suicide bombings across Turkey since 1990. Both are designated as terrorist organisations by Turkey and the European Union.
The pro-government daily newspaper Akşam led with the headline “German signs on PKK rocket,” alleging that a missile found after a recent PKK attack was German-made. The outlet claims that German arms given to the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, the military force of the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, to battle ISIS in northern Iraq have flowed to the outlawed group in eastern Turkey. In an online article published Monday, Akşam wrote that “Germany is the biggest supporter of the PKK.”
In April, Germany announced it would send further weapons in the form of a shipment of MILAN anti-tank rockets to Peshmerga forces. However, the German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said Monday that the Berlin gave the arms to fight ISIS, not any other group.
“It cannot be fully rejected and I can not confirm it,” he told German outlet Deutsche-Welle. “We have weapons that we send to the Peshmerga not to use for any other political and military aims.”
Other pro-Erdoğan newspapers also took aim at Germany’s alleged direct and indirect support for terror groups. The daily newspaper Star Gazetesi led with the headline “German-style support for terror” with a large picture of a Patriot missile. The paper also alleges that Germany is supporting the Turkish leftist DHKP-C militant group, which claimed responsibility for an attack on the U.S. consulate in Istanbul last week, by harbouring some of the group’s members.
A third pro-government Islamist newspaper, Akit, ran the headline “Germany harbours traitors” in reference to a prosecutor, Zekeriya Öz, who initiated corruption investigations against Erdoğan and fled Turkey to Germany with a colleague last week because of an arrest warrant against them. The outlet claims one of the prosecutors is staying at a hotel in Frankfurt and being protected by Germany.
Ilhan Tanir, a political analyst and a reporter for the left-leaning Turkish newspaper, Cumhuriyet, says that while the criticism against Germany may represent genuine concern over Berlin’s perceived support for militant groups, Erdoğan and the media outlets which support him have other motives.
“The election is almost certainly coming up. Erdoğan is out of arguments and he has to find arguments [indicating] that everybody is against him, the whole world is against him and Germany is against him,” says Tanir, in reference to potential early elections later this year after coalition talks stalled following an indecisive result in May’s parliamentary elections.
“The economy is not doing well, Turkey’s foreign policy is collapsing, so they come up with these different conspiracy theories attacking Germany,” he adds. “They don’t want to attack the U.S. directly so they see Germany as a more reasonable state and enemy to attack via the media.”
The German decision to remove the Patriot missiles and the subsequent criticism in the Turkish press follows strained relations between Ankara and Berlin over the Turkish government’s operation against the PKK in eastern Turkey.
The Turkish military has killed a number of Kurdish militants in recent weeks while PKK fighters have killed Turkish policemen and soldiers. Both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier have appealed to the Turkish government to return to the negotiating table with the Kurdish separatists.
“The Erdoğan government has invested a great deal in reconciliation with the Kurds,” Steinmeier said in an interview with German newspaper Bild, according to Reuters. “It can’t allow all the bridges that have been built up over the course of this process to be torn down.”
Angela Merkel’s spokesperson said in July that the German leader appealed to the Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu by phone that “the peace process with the Kurds should not be given up, but continued despite all the difficulties.”
By Jack Moore – Newsweek