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Merkel: No Blanket Ban on Arms Exports to Turkey

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German chancellor rejects calls by opposition parties, stresses Turkey’s key role in fight against international terrorism.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday came out against a blanket ban on arms exports to NATO ally Turkey, amid political tensions between Berlin and Ankara.

Speaking to German public radio NDR, Merkel rejected calls by opposition parties for a total ban on arms sales to Turkey, calls that emerged during campaigning for the Sept. 24 general elections.

Merkel said that her conservative-left coalition government already took a more restrictive policy on such exports, with permits issued on a case-by-case basis, if Germany’s Federal Security Council decides in their favor.

“Turkey is together with us in NATO,” Merkel stressed, mentioning Germany's responsibilities as a member of the pact.

“We are alliance partners. We are also dependent on cooperation with Turkey on security issues. Also in terms of information exchanges regarding terrorist activities,” she added.

The chancellor also underlined Turkey’s important role as a partner in the fight against international terrorism, and said all these factors should be taken into account in such decisions, despite political differences on various issues.

Pressure as polls near

Merkel, whose Christian Democratic bloc (CDU/CSU) is leading in the polls, has been under growing pressure from its main rival the Social Democrats and opposition parties to sharpen its tone towards Turkey, due to recent political tensions.

On Monday Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, a social democrat, spoke in favor of more restrictions in arms exports to Turkey.

Last week the Social Democrats also demanded a halt to Turkey’s EU membership talks and freezing €4 billion ($4.68 billion) in pre-accession funds.

An INSA poll released on Monday said Merkel’s Christian Democratic bloc is likely to win 36.5 percent of votes in the Sept. 24 elections, while the SPD polled at 23.5 percent.

Ties between the NATO allies have been disrupted by a string of disputes over issues such as the arrests of German nationals and Berlin’s reluctance to take stronger measures against outlawed terrorist groups hostile to Turkey.

Since the July 2016 defeated coup attempt in Turkey, more than a dozen German citizens have been arrested on suspicion of providing support to illegal or terrorist groups.

While German politicians demanded their immediate release, Turkish authorities repeatedly stressed that the country’s judiciary is independent, ruling out any political influence on legal procedures.

Turkish leaders also slammed Germany for not taking a clear stance against the defeated coup in Turkey last year, and not going after suspects believed to have involved in the attempt.

The attempted coup, which left 250 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured, was orchestrated by the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen.

Germany, which is home to 3 million Turkish immigrants, is among the countries where FETO has managed to organize a large network, including dozens of businesses, private schools, as well as media organizations.

Since last year’s coup attempt, nearly 4,000 suspected FETO members have come to Germany, according to group members’ statements on local media.

German authorities had been reluctant so far to curb the activities of FETO, also known as Gulenists in the country, stressing that they would only act if they get concrete evidence that these institutions are carrying out activities that violate the country’s Constitution or laws.

Apart from FETO, the terrorist PKK organization is also active in the country, and carries out significant propaganda, recruitment, and fund-raising activities.

The group has nearly 14,000 followers among Germany’s Kurdish immigrant population, according to the German domestic intelligence agency BfV.

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