Turkey, Politics, Europe

Merkel plans to visit Turkey next month

German Chancellor’s talks in Ankara to focus on refugee crisis, terrorism

20.01.2017
Merkel plans to visit Turkey next month German Chancellor Angela Merkel ( Dursun Aydemir - Anadolu Agency )

By Ayhan Simsek

BERLIN

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is planning to visit Turkey early next month, officials confirmed on Friday.

Merkel’s planned one-day visit to Ankara will focus on joint efforts to address the refugee crisis, cooperation in the fight against terrorism plus economic ties, a senior diplomat told Anadolu Agency.

The Chancellor is facing a tough election battle this year due to widespread discontent about her open-door policy for refugees, which led to arrival of 890,000 asylum seekers to Germany in 2015.

During her Ankara visit, she is expected to renew support for the EU-Turkey refugee agreement to stop irregular migration and highlight positive results achieved so far.

Championed by Merkel, the agreement has been successful in stopping the refugee influx, with number of asylum seekers arriving in Germany falling from 890,000 in 2015 to 280,000 in 2016.

Turkish leaders have been critical of the EU recently, accusing it of breaking promises made under the agreement in to share the task of hosting of refugees.

The EU and Turkey agreed in March on a plan to stop irregular migration through the Aegean Sea by taking cracking down on human traffickers and improving the conditions of nearly 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.

While the EU pledged 3 billion euros ($3.2 billion) in aid for Syrian refugees in Turkey and resettling some others in European countries, the implementation has been slow due to bureaucratic hurdles and the opposition of several EU member states to refugee relocation plans.

Anti-terror delegation

Ankara has increased pressure on Berlin recently to take more serious action against the activities of terrorist PKK group in Germany.

The PKK has more than 14,000 followers in Germany among the Kurdish migrant population, and raised more than €13 million ($14.3 million) in 2015, according to reports by the German domestic intelligence agency, the BfV.

Merkel promised last month to intensify cooperation with Turkey against terrorism, following a deadly bomb attack by the PKK/TAK in Istanbul’s Besiktas district, that left 44 dead and dozens of others wounded.

Anadolu Agency learned that a high-level delegation from Germany’s interior ministry would also pay a visit to Turkey early next month to discuss enhancing cooperation in fight against terrorism.

The PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU -- resumed its armed campaign against Turkey in July 2015 and since then has been responsible for the deaths of approximately 1,100 security personnel and civilians, including women and children.

Besides the PKK, Ankara is also demanding Berlin to take action against the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), which is accused of orchestrating the foiled 15 July 2016 coup attempt.

Germany, which hosts a three-million-strong Turkish community, is among the countries where FETO, led by U.S.-based Fetullah Gulen, has a large network with dozens of private schools, businesses and media organizations.

Several important Gulenist figures, including prosecutors and journalists are believed to have fled from Turkey to Germany.

Despite insistent calls by Ankara, Berlin has been reluctant so far to go after the shadowy group, arguing a lack of sufficient evidence.

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