BERLIN: Germany sought on Saturday to reassure the country’s three 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 the authoritarian former communist East Germany.

“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,” Gabriel wrote in Saturday’s open letter.

“We have always striven for good relations with Turkey, because we know that good relations are important for you (German Turks),” he added.

He said Germany would review cooperation and especially economic aid for the fellow Nato member and campaign for Europe to take a clear position on Ankara.

Gokay Sofuoglu, chairman of the Turkish Community in Germany, welcomed Gabriel’s conciliatory words.

Published in Dawn, July 23rd, 2017

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