Turkish police’s arrest of two German nationals set the stage for a new diplomatic row, prompting Chancellor Angela Merkel to call for a robust reaction to Turkey over its treatment of German citizens.
“We must react decisively,” Ms. Merkel told a group of businessmen at an event in Nuremberg on Friday. She noted that Germany is seriously considering to revisit ties with Turkey.
“Given the latest events, perhaps it is necessary to rethink them even further,” Reuters quoted the German chancellor, who seeks another term in general elections this September, as saying.
Two German nationals have been arrested in the western province of Izmir. According to Deutsche Welle, the number of German citizens in Turkish custody is now 55.
Germany’s foreign ministry did not release the names of the people detained but said on Friday that both hold only German citizenship.
“We have to assume that the arrests could be politically motivated,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Adebahr told German media in Berlin.
Germany’s Deutsche Welle reported that the two people were arrested on August 31, and Turkish police have confirmed they are in custody.
Ms. Adebahr said the foreign office was unable to contact the two Germans.
Many diplomats and observers have argued that Turkey uses foreign nationals as hostages to pressure Western countries to accept its demands.
The post-coup crackdown and Turkey’s persistent demands for the extradition of alleged coup suspects and political foes from Germany drove a particular wedge between two countries.
Last week, German Ambassador Martin Erdmann visited journalist Deniz Yucel and human rights activist Peter Steudtner in Istanbul where they are jailed on charges of espionage and aiding a terrorist organization.
The German Foreign Ministry said on Friday it is trying to provide consular help and access to its citizens recently imprisoned.
The recent arrest ignited debates in Germany whether Berlin should issue a formal travel warning for its citizens going to Turkey. Social Democrat Martin Schulz, the main contender against Ms. Merkel in September elections, thinks so.
But others and the government stopped short of seeking for travel warning. Tourism is a key source of revenue for Turkey’s struggling economy. And German decision in that regard would possibly deal a considerable impact on it.
The German chancellor, however, spoke with an unwavering conviction regarding debates over upgrading customs union agreement with Turkey. Germany threatened to suspend negotiations with Ankara after Istanbul police arrested Amnesty International member Peter Steudtner in July.
Under the current circumstances, Ms. Merkel said, it is not appropriate to carry out further discussions with Turkey over customs union.