BERLIN, , (Pakistan Point News - APP - 10th Nov, 2016 ) - German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Thursday he will travel to Turkey next week for talks as concerns mount over Ankara's widening crackdown following a failed coup. "We must ask if the Turkish government's approach is compatible with the minimum standards of the rule of law," he told parliament, announcing his planned visit next Tuesday. Beyond diplomacy, Steinmeier said he is also putting forward a package of measures to "bolster civil society" in Turkey, which has come under increasing pressure from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government.
"When the existence of civil society is threatened, then democracy is also threatened," said Steinmeier. "That is our experience. We Germans know how important constitutionally guaranteed freedom is for journalism, culture and science. We also know how dangerous it is when these free spaces are closed off," he said. Berlin wants to "help persecuted scientists, cultural workers, journalists, who can no longer work in Turkey come to Germany to work," he said.
Other measures include enabling online news media to provide "independent and diverse" reports that can be read in Turkey. Relations between Ankara and Berlin have been strained in the wake of the July 15 failed military coup, with Germany repeatedly expressing concern over the scope of the crackdown. Berlin last week summoned Turkey's envoy after almost a dozen MPs from the main pro-Kurdish party were detained. In a strongly worded statement, the foreign ministry said Ankara should not use a crackdown against terror as an excuse to muzzle the opposition.
Erdogan has meanwhile accused Germany of being one of the world's worst countries for harbouring "terrorists", saying Berlin had not responded to requests to hand over suspects from the failed coup. Developments in Turkey have a strong resonance in Germany, home to a three-million-strong ethnic Turkish population, the legacy of a massive "guest worker" programme in the 1960s and 1970s.