BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany and Turkey discussed ways to revive their business ties on Monday after a period of strain when Ankara accused Berlin of “Nazi methods” for barring its leaders from campaigning among German Turks for a referendum.
Bilateral ties have been pressured since last year when, after a failed coup in July, Turkey launched a massive crackdown on its critics. It also jailed Deniz Yucel, the German-Turkish correspondent of the daily Die Welt, as a “terrorist agent”.
Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybecki, speaking after meeting her German counterpart Brigitte Zypries, said that bilateral trade volume could double to 70 billion euros a year.
“That shows how much potential we have,” she said.
Given the current trade volume and investments totaling 12 billion euros, Zypries said Germany was Turkey’s most important business partner and Berlin was keen to expand business ties.
But Ankara needed to ensure the rule of law and set reliable framework conditions to facilitate continued investment by German companies in Turkey.
“We need clear assurances about the legal securities,” Zypries said. “The rule of law is a central requirement for the German government and German industry. Companies need reliable framework conditions to make investment decisions.”
She told reporters that a joint economic commission was due to meet around the end of the year, and a German-Turkish energy forum was also to be reactivated.
The strains created by the crackdown on dissent and the Yucel case worsened early this year when Germany barred Turkish politicians from campaigning among its Turkish minority for an April referendum to give Erdogan sweeping new powers.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan accused Germany of using “Nazi methods” by banning campaigning among its three million ethnic Turks. A large majority of them supported Erdogan in the referendum, dismaying Germans who asked why the largest Muslim minority in their democracy supported a strongman in Turkey.
German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer told a news conference that the arrest of the Die Welt journalist remained a major source of friction between the two countries.
“We have repeatedly told the Turkish government that the case of Deniz Yucel is a constant thorn in the side of the German-Turkish relationship, which is already not in good shape,” Schaefer said.
He said the government was continuing to press for the release of Yucel and, until that happened, better conditions and visitation rights.
Zeybecki told reporters that Turkish courts were independent and would reach a decision “as soon as possible” about the case.
Reporting by Andrea Shalal and Gernot Heller; Editing by Tom Heneghan