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Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu defiant over arrested Germans

Chancellor Angela Merkel warns Ankara that Germany may re-examine its policies after latest Turkish action
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (Reuters)

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Saturday dismissed Berlin's angry reaction to the arrest of German citizens in Turkey, local media reported on a row that is worsening the nations' already fraying ties.

"When we arrest a coup plotter Germany starts to get upset. But what are we supposed to do?" Cavusoglu was quoted as saying by the Anadolu news agency. "This is also a Turkish citizen, but Germany asks why are you arresting my citizen?"

Turkey has arrested more than 50,000 people, including journalists, under a state of emergency imposed in a crackdown after an attempted coup in July 2016.

Berlin said on Friday that two more German nationals had been detained in Turkey "for political reasons," as Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Ankara that Germany may re-examine its policies after the latest Turkish action.

Merkel said Germany had already "significantly revamped" its ties with Ankara but that the latest events meant "perhaps it is necessary to rethink them ever further," adding that there would be no further talks about Ankara's participation in an EU customs union until the current situation is resolved, Deutsche Welle reported.

"Our demands to Turkey are very clear," German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said. "We expect Turkey to release the German nationals who were arrested on unjustifiable grounds."

The latest arrests brings to 12 the number of Germans in Turkish custody that Berlin considers political prisoners.

There is "no legal basis" for detention in most of these cases, Merkel said, according to remarks carried by Germany's DPA news agency.

According to the Dogan news agency, the two German nationals most recently arrested are of Turkish origin and were detained at Antalya airport in southeastern Turkey over suspected links with the failed coup.  

"If it's someone connected to the failed coup, if they supported it, then why are you protecting them?" asked Cavusoglu, speaking in southern Turkey at celebrations for the major Muslim festival of Eid-al-Adha.

Relations between the two NATO allies have deteriorated since Berlin sharply criticised Ankara over the crackdown that followed the failed coup.

Two more Germans detained in Turkey on 'political' grounds
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The arrest of several German nationals, including the Turkish-German journalist Deniz Yucel, the Istanbul correspondent for Die Welt daily, further frayed ties.

Yucel has now spent about 200 days in Turkish custody ahead of a trial on terror charges.

German journalist Mesale Tolu has been held on similar charges since May, while human rights activist Peter Steudtner was arrested in a July raid.

Following Steudtner's arrest, Germany vowed stinging measures impacting tourism and investment in Turkey and a full "overhaul" of their troubled relations. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for his part, has also sparked outrage after charging that Germany is sheltering plotters of last year's attempted coup, as well as Kurdish militants and terrorists, and demanded their extradition.

Erdogan added to the tensions this month when he urged ethnic Turks in Germany to vote against Merkel's conservatives and their coalition partners, the Social Democrats, in 24 September elections.

On Friday, Merkel hit out against Erdogan's call, saying Germany's elections "will be decided only by the people in our country who have German citizenship".

The escalating tensions have split the three-million-strong Turkish community in Europe's top economy, the largest diaspora abroad, which is a legacy of Germany's "guest worker" programme of the 1960s and '70s.