After dispute with Cavusoglu: Turkish opposition pays respect to Baerbock

After a quarrel with Cavusoglu
Turkish opposition pays tribute to Baerbock

“That was fine.” The opposition party HDP is pleased with the clear edge that Germany’s Foreign Minister Baerbock is showing during her two-day visit to Turkey. The Green politician exchanged blows with her counterpart Cavusoglu. Today she strikes conciliatory tones.

On the second day of her visit to Turkey, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock met opposition representatives after an open dispute with her counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu. In the capital, Ankara, she met with leading politicians from the largest opposition party, the CHP, the pro-Kurdish HDP, and the national conservative Iyi party. Unusually, the Green politician did not have her only meeting with a government representative on Friday in the capital, but in the Bosphorus metropolis of Istanbul.

There, the joint press conference with Cavusoglu became an open confrontation about the expected Turkish offensive in northern Syria, the imprisonment of the opposition leader Osman Kavala in Turkey and, above all, about the island dispute between Greece and Turkey. The Turkish opposition politician Mithat Sancar praised Baerbock’s clear words. “Direct statements and confrontation are sometimes unavoidable, not just necessary,” said the HDP co-chair after his meeting with Baerbock. Cavusoglu always speaks a very clear language at such meetings. This is now the first time that his German counterpart has behaved so clearly. “That was fine.”

Baerbock was in Athens before her visit to Turkey and had clearly positioned herself on Greece’s side in the dispute over Greek islands such as Rhodes, Kos and Lesbos in the eastern Mediterranean. The Turkish government is challenging Athens’ sovereignty over these islands and demanding the withdrawal of all Greek troops. Cavusoglu accused Germany of taking sides and no longer being a mediator like Chancellor Angela Merkel was. “To tell the truth, Germany was an honest mediator at that time. It was balanced. Germany’s policies were balanced.” That is no longer the case.

Open Zoff because of Osman Kavala

The two also clashed on the subject of Syria. Baerbock warned Cavusoglu of a new offensive in the neighboring country. Ankara wants to fight there the Kurdish militia YPG, which the government regards as a terrorist organization. Cavusoglu said it was a fight against terror and not a military operation. The Turkish foreign minister reacted particularly angrily to Baerbock’s criticism of the imprisonment of Turkish cultural promoter Osman Kavala.

The Green politician emphasized that judgments by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), which ordered the release, must be respected. Cavusoglu reacted angrily and accused Germany of using and financing Kavala against Turkey. Kavala was sentenced to life in prison in April in connection with the 2013 Gezi protests. He has been in prison since 2017.

In Ankara, Baerbock first visited the mausoleum for the founder of the state, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and laid a wreath there. This is mandatory for an inaugural visit. She then met the three opposition representatives and then visited a counseling center for women who have been victims of domestic violence and an aid project for refugees from Syria and Iraq. Women’s rights are “an indicator of the democratic state of a society worldwide,” said Baerbock. She thanked the activists for their commitment. For her, foreign policy always means “strengthening the exchange between the people we represent.”

Hundreds of people protested in Turkey in June against the country’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention against violence against women. The international agreement obliges its signatories to legislate to protect women from violence and to take action against acts of violence. Turkey is regularly pilloried for undermining basic human and democratic rights. Hundreds of government critics are being held in Turkish prisons. Activists and international organizations regularly accuse Erdogan of using the judiciary as a political tool, especially since thousands of judges were ousted after the failed coup in 2016.

Erdogan’s poll numbers are crumbling

“German-Turkish relations are so much more than the construction sites,” stressed Baerbock during her visit. “These are primarily relationships that are based on people working together.” That’s why it’s important to her to meet local people. The civil society exchange is “the heart of our togetherness”. The minister in Ankara no longer commented publicly on the dispute with Cavusoglu.

The next parliamentary and presidential elections in Turkey are planned for June next year. Observers assume that six opposition parties will form an alliance and nominate a common candidate. The opposition then hopes to replace President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been in power for almost 20 years. The polls for Erdogan and his conservative Islamic governing party, the AKP, had recently fallen.

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