First Published: 2017-08-22

German foreign minister says Erdogan backers threatened his wife
Sigmar Gabriel says Europe should back "democratically minded" majority of Turks who do not support President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Middle East Online

Gabriel said Germany must be cautious on the issue of sanctions.

BERLIN - German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has accused supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of threating his wife amid a festering diplomatic crisis.

He said that Erdogan's strident style "had apparently led some to feel motivated to try to threaten and harass my wife," in comments broadcast Tuesday by news channel NTV.

"Of course, this is a terrible outcome," he said without giving further details, at a time when relations between the NATO allies have plunged to their lowest point in years.

Gabriel said Berlin and the rest of Europe should back the "democratically minded" majority of Turks who did not support Erdogan, in a dramatic hardening of Germany's position towards Ankara.

Those remarks, at a campaign event for his Social Democratic Party (SPD), come amid worsening relations after Erdogan urged German Turks to boycott Germany's main parties in next month's election.

"More than half the country is democratically minded. They didn't support him," Gabriel said at the meeting in the western Saarland region, according to the foreign ministry.

"I believe that many in Turkey are counting on Europe and Germany supporting Turkish democracy and not looking on helplessly." The remarks, coming after Erdogan told Gabriel to "know his place" and describing Germany's main parties as "enemies of Turkey", are likely to anger Turkey.

"Who are you to talk to the president of Turkey?" Erdogan said on Saturday in a televised speech. "Know your limits. He is trying to teach us a lesson... How long have you been in politics? How old are you?"

Erdogan accuses Germany of harbouring plotters behind last year's bloody coup attempt against Erdogan. Turkey has arrested 50,000 in a crackdown, including European-Turkish citizens. Western politicians say the dragnet is a pretext for Erdogan to rid himself of his opponents.

- Sanctions call -

Lawmakers from Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrat party and the Left party on the other end of the political spectrum urged the government to consider freezing the foreign assets of Erdogan and his inner circle.

"We need immediate and direct sanctions against Erdogan and his associates," said Sevim Dagdelen, foreign affairs spokesman for the Left party.

Home to some 3 million people of Turkish descent, Germany has traditionally had good relations with Turkey, which is also a major trade partner and tourist destination for German sun-seekers.

But, with parliamentary elections due on Sept. 24, current tensions have badly dented Turkey's image in Europe's largest economy.

In his remarks on Monday evening, Gabriel was cautious on sanctions, saying that Germany did not want inadvertently to hit "the small restaurant owners and waiters on the west coast." The latest escalation in Ankara's war of words with Berlin was triggered by Turkey's use of an Interpol red notice to have Turkish-German writer Dogan Akhanli arrested in Spain. Accused of terrorism, Akhanli has been released but must remain in Spain while authorities assess Turkey's extradition request.

"I always thought I was safe in European countries and that the long hand of arbitrary arrogance couldn't reach me here," said the activist, who spent long periods in jail for left-wing activism before fleeing Turkey in 1991.

Among the alleged state enemies and terrorist supporters behind bars in Turkey are several German or dual Turkish-German citizens, including journalists and rights workers.

Erdogan has charged that Germany is sheltering Kurdish militants, coup plotters and terrorists.

 

Saudi Crown Prince calls Iran supreme leader 'new Hitler'

Divided Syria opposition meets in Riyadh

Lebanon’s Hariri suspends resignation

Revolt in US State Department over child soldier law

Outrage in Iraq over 'child marriage' bill

Hezbollah hails PM's suspension of resignation

Syrian opposition aims for unity at talks in Riyadh

Egypt police kill 3 Islamists in shootout

Turkey unsure if Assad to be part of Syria political transition

Migrant arrivals from Libya down since EU deal

Palestinian factions leave Cairo talks with little progress

Sudan’s Bashir looks to Putin for ‘protection’ from US aggression

China, Djibouti forge 'strategic' ties

IS propaganda channels fall quiet in 'unprecedented' hiatus

Kremlin to create Syria congress despite Turkey ‘reservations’

Netanyahu berates deputy minister for 'offensive' remarks on US Jews

Egypt PM heads to Germany for medical treatment

Egypt destroys 10 SUVs carrying arms on Libya border

Iraq launches operation to clear last IS holdouts from desert

Saudi-led coalition to reopen Yemen airport, port to aid

Turkey court rules to keep Amnesty chief in jail

France calls for UN meeting on Libya slave-trading

Egypt detains 29 for allegedly spying for Turkey

WTO panel to hear Qatar’s complaint against UAE blockade

Three dead as diphtheria spreads in Yemen

Israel seizes explosive material at Gaza border

Activists call for release of UK journalist held by IS

Bahrain upholds jail sentence for activist

Iraq attacks at lowest since 2014

Turkey continues crackdown in post-coup probe

Hariri back in Lebanon

Putin to hold Syria peace talks with Erdogan, Rouhani

US carries out air strikes against IS in Libya

Lebanon's Hariri in Egypt ahead of return home

Rebels say Sanaa airport 'ready to run' after coalition bombing

Greece to amend historic sharia law for Muslim minority

Turkey to ask Germany to extradite top coup suspect

Car bomb in northern Iraq kills at least 24

Morocco bans bitcoin transactions

13 million Syrians need aid despite relative drop in violence

Sudan urged to improve plight of Darfur's displaced people

Brain drain means Syria can’t recover for a generation

Palestinians close communication lines with Americans

Anti-IS coalition strikes drop to lowest number

German police arrest six Syrians ‘planning terror attack’