Turkish and German ministers argue over policies in tense press conference

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Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock attend a news conference in Istanbul, Turkey, July 29, 2022. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

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ISTANBUL, July 29 (Reuters) – Turkey’s and Germany‘s foreign ministers sparred over a range of issues at a tense and drawn-out news conference on Friday, trading stings over differences between Ankara and Athens, the Turkish philanthropist imprisoned Osman Kavala and Kurdish activists.

The press conference, which started an hour later than scheduled and lasted an hour, began with calm remarks from the two ministers but grew increasingly testy as they criticized each other’s policies.

Turkey’s Mevlut Cavusoglu said Germany had lost its impartiality in mediating between Turkey, Greece and Cyprus, adding that it needed to listen to all sides without prejudice.

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“Third countries, including Germany, should not be a tool of provocation and propaganda, especially from Greece and the Greek Cypriot side,” he said at the press conference. in Istanbul.

Relations between Athens and Ankara are strained over a range of issues ranging from overflights to competing claims for offshore waters.

Cyprus, which was divided in 1974 when Turkey invaded its northern third in response to a brief Greek-inspired coup, is a main point of division.

German Annalena Baerbock said problems in the eastern Mediterranean cannot be solved by increasing tensions.

Baerbock then turned to philanthropist Kavala and called on Turkey to implement the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

“It is my responsibility as foreign minister to respect and defend the decisions of the ECHR, without exception and at all times,” she said, adding that Kavala should be released.

The ECHR said this month that Turkey had failed to implement the 2019 ruling on Kavala, in infringement proceedings, which could see Ankara suspended from the Council of Europe, a body human rights monitoring. Read more

Cavusoglu responded by saying that Greece, Norway and Germany had also failed to implement other ECHR rulings and accused Germany of funding Kavala. Kavala was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in April for funding the 2013 nationwide “Gezi” protests in what rights groups say was a political trial.

“Why are you constantly bringing up Osman Kavala? Because you are using Osman Kavala against Turkey. We know how much he was funded during the Gezi events,” Cavusoglu said.

The ECHR ruled in 2019 that Kavala’s detention was intended to silence him and that there was insufficient evidence to support the charges against him.

Cavusoglu also criticized Berlin for “embracing” Kurdish activists. Baerbock said Germany, along with the European Union, treated the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which led a decades-long insurgency against Turkey, as a terrorist organization.

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Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen in Ankara and Maria Sheahan in Berlin; Additional reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun in Istanbul; Editing by Catherine Evans and Grant McCool

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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