By Fatih Hafiz Mehmet
Freezing Germany’s weapons exports to Turkey could only strengthen the local Turkish arms industry, said the nation’s foreign minister on Tuesday.
Mevlut Cavusoglu was responding to remarks by his German counterpart, Sigmar Gabriel, who said Monday that Berlin was putting most arms exports to Turkey "on hold” due to recent bilateral tensions.
"These kinds of approaches actually cause the strengthening of our own defense industry," Cavusoglu told a joint press conference in Ankara with his visiting Pakistani counterpart Khawaja Muhammad Asif.
“In this sense we increase national and local production in all areas. We produce our own fighter jets and helicopters. Turkey is never desperate.”
Sales by top Turkish arms companies rose by more than 10 percent in 2015, according to an analysis released last December which also put Turkey’s ASELSAN and Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) among the world’s top 100 arms firms.
Turkish defense and aviation industry exports to Germany alone rose 17 percent year-on-year in the eight months of 2017, the Turkish Exporters Assembly (TIM) announced last week.
Turkey plans to use only locally designed defense industry technology by 2020, Ismail Demir, undersecretary for the Turkish defense industry, told Anadolu Agency in June.
He can't win votes by blasting Turkey
Cavusoglu called Gabriel his "friend", but said his approach ill-suits the foreign minister of a country on the eve of general elections.
"We understand they started with 30 percent in the polls and now his party's support fell to 22 percent. But I'm not responsible for this. He's responsible for it, he was the head of the party until recently," he said.
Gabriel's Social Democratic Party is a partner in the Angela Merkel-led Christian Democratic coalition government.
Cavusoglu said Gabriel cannot win more votes by condemning Turkey.
Cavusoglu also praised German Chancellor Merkel's remarks on Tuesday opposing a blanket ban on arms exports to Turkey.
"We find Merkel's approach correct and more mature. Acting in good sense even in an election atmosphere is our duty," he said.
Merkel, whose Christian Democratic bloc (CDU/CSU) is leading in the polls, has been under growing pressure by its main rival the Social Democrats and opposition parties to sharpen its tone towards Turkey, due to recent political tensions.
Pakistan stands by Turkey in supporting Rohingya
At the news conference, Asif said Pakistan stands by Turkey in its support for Myanmar's Rohingya Muslims.
“We strongly condemn the human rights abuses against the helpless Muslims in Rakhine state,” he said.
He urged Muslim countries to support each other.
“We are not giving enough attention to the oppression, poverty, and misery of Muslims living across the world, including Kashmir, Palestine, and Myanmar,” he said.
He also touted the "unique” relationship between Turkey and Pakistan, saying, “We have always been supportive of each other on issues related to both countries.”
Since Aug. 25, more than 370,000 Rohingya have crossed from Myanmar's western state of Rakhine to Bangladesh, according to the UN.
The refugees are fleeing a fresh security operation in which security forces and Buddhist mobs have killed men, women and children, looted homes and torched Rohingya villages. According to Bangladesh, around 3,000 Rohingya have been killed in the crackdown.
Turkey has been at the forefront of providing aid to Rohingya refugees, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he will raise the issue at the UN.
The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.
Last October, following attacks on border posts in Rakhine's Maungdaw district, security forces launched a five-month crackdown in which, according to Rohingya groups, around 400 people were killed.
The UN documented mass gang rapes, killings -- including of infants and young children -- brutal beatings, and disappearances committed by security personnel. In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.