German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel addresses a news conference in Berlin, Germany, July 20, 2017, after he has interrupted his summer vacation and returned to Berlin to discuss a deepening crisis in relations with Turkey over the arrest of human rights activists. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
By Thomas Escritt and Michelle Martin
BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany sought on Saturday to reassure the country’s 3 million people of Turkish descent it would stand by them as a row with Ankara escalates, saying they were not the target of changes to government policy on Turkey.
In a letter published in German and Turkish in daily newspaper Bild, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said Germany had no quarrel with Turkish people in either country but could not stand by as “innocent” German citizens were jailed.
On Friday, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble compared Turkey’s detention of six rights activists, including a German, to repression in former communist East Germany.
Gabriel wrote in Saturday’s open letter: “However difficult the political relations between Germany and Turkey, one thing is clear: you, people of Turkish roots in Germany, belong here with us, whether you have a German passport or not.”
He said Germany would review cooperation and especially economic aid for the fellow NATO member, and would campaign for Europe to take a clear position on Ankara.
Gokay Sofuoglu, chairman of the Turkish Community in Germany, welcomed Gabriel’s conciliatory words.
“We must not let ourselves be driven apart here in Germany. People with Turkish roots need to focus on Germany,” he told Welt am Sonntag newspaper.
(Editing by Mark Trevelyan)