German Minister compares Turkey to former East Germany

The government stepped up its travel advisory for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally as Gabriel warned it could no longer guarantee its citizens' safety in the face of "arbitrary" mass arrests, a step set to hit a sector crucial to Turkey's ailing economy.

Germany is home to three million ethnic Turks, around half of whom are eligible to vote in Turkish elections. There has been speculation that Erdogan is using the German detainees essentially as hostages in an attempt to force Berlin to deport Turkish citizens in Germany whom Ankara considers terrorists.

Germany is Turkey's largest economic and trade partner and German investments in Turkey have been helping the growth of this country since decades.

That means the Federal Office of Economics and Export Control (Bafa) probably can not issue new export approvals, but projects already agreed will not be affected initially. The government offers such guarantees to insure exports to many countries, but Gabriel said that "you can not advise anyone to invest in a country if there is no longer legal security".

On Friday, the Economy Ministry said all applications for the export of defense equipment to Turkey are being put under examination. In the first four months of 2017, business worth 22 million euros was approved, for navy deliveries and joint projects with other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation partners. Meanwhile, Germany's Economy Ministry said that Berlin would be reviewing all future exports of weapons to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member Turkey.

"It reminds me of how things were in the (communist) GDR".

"When you travelled there (the GDR), you knew, if something happens to you, nobody can help you", Mr Schaeuble said. Turkey's finance minister though aiming to calm the rising tension with Germany.

The Turkish government criticized Gabriel's remarks and the announced change in the German position.

These steps from Germany come in retaliation to Turkey banning German parliamentarians from visiting troops participating in North Atlantic Treaty Organisation operations in Syria and the detention of a German human rights activist for allegedly aiding a terror group.

Turkey retaliated by banning German parliamentarians from visiting their country's armed forces stationed at the Turkish military base of Incirlik and Konya from where they were participating in the worldwide military effort against the Islamic State.

"If Turkey does not stop playing these games - as further exemplified by the removal of the visitation rights of German parliamentarians at Konya NATO base in Turkey - we must tell our people: you are travelling at your own risk", Schaeuble said.

The activist arrests were part of a broader crackdown across Turkish society since last year's failed coup. Since then, tens of thousands of people have been arrested and more than 100,000 have lost their jobs in Turkey.

"The allegation that Turkish authorities gave Germany the names of German companies linked to Gulen is not true".

"The cases of Peter Steudtner, Deniz Yucel and Ms. Tolu are examples of the absurd accusations of terror propaganda that obviously are only meant to serve to silence every critical voice in Turkey. and also voices from Germany", Gabriel said. The alleged list contains over 680 companies, Reuters reported on Friday, citing a German security source.

So far this year, bookings from Germany have accounted for some 10 percent of Turkey's tourists.

  • Eleanor Harrison