BRUSSELS (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was confronted by key allies France and Germany with diplomatic complaints despite him traveling to Brussels to celebrate the unity of the NATO alliance.
French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel both raised the issue of nationals from their countries currently held in custody in Turkey. It was the latest example of steadily decreasing relations between Erdogan and several of his European allies in the wake of last year’s coup attempt.
French photojournalist Mathias Depardon was taken into custody in Turkey early this month and started a hunger strike to protest his detention, and Macron confronted Erdogan with his plight.
A senior French official, who could not be publicly named in line with standard practice, said Erdogan indicated he would quickly look into the situation.
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The photographer was on assignment for National Geographic magazine when he was detained in the mainly Kurdish province of Batman on May 8.
And Merkel met with Erdogan on the sidelines of the NATO summit to talk about the “current strains in the relations” between the two countries, which center on Nazi insults Erdogan has targeted at Germany and limits set on German lawmakers on visiting troops in Turkey.
Merkel also especially pushed for the release of German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel, who was arrested over 100 days ago and has been imprisoned in Turkey without a trial.
Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said in the statement that “in addition, the chancellor again demanded that imprisoned German citizens receive fair treatment.”
Merkel also insisted it was indispensable that German lawmakers can visit the German soldiers on the Turkish air base in Incirlik.
“For us it is indispensable, because we have a parliament’s army, that our soldiers can be visited by members of the German Parliament. Otherwise, we need to leave Incirlik,” she said.
Erdogan also met with European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, even though it was stressed that the encounter in no way meant that relations had returned to “business as usual.”
Even though the EU and Turkey have an agreement that has stemmed the flow of people fleeing war and poverty coming into the European heartland, relations have worsened following the suppression and mass arrests in the wake of last year’s failed coup attempt in Turkey.
Erdogan has insulted EU nations like Germany and the Netherlands by comparing them with Nazis and has hinted that he is seeking to bring back the death penalty, which would doom Turkey’s EU membership aspirations.
Angela Charlton in Brussels, Susan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, and Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin contributed to this story.