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Keep Rights at Center of Turkey/Germany Meeting

Agenda for Erdogan’s Visit Should Include Protection of Civilians in Conflict

Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz, left, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, Turkey, March 14, 2022. © 2022 Burhan Ozbilici/AP Photo

On November 17, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit Berlin for talks with Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

The hostilities between Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups are likely to be high on the agenda. While Germany and Turkey take different views of the situation in Israel and Palestine, Scholz and Erdogan should focus on measures to urgently protect civilians at risk of mass atrocities. Both leaders should condemn war crimes, irrespective of the perpetrator. They should also respect the right to protest on this issue and commit to combat antisemitism and Islamophobia.

Scholz, who has claimed Israel is abiding by international law, should condemn Israeli authorities’ cutting of food, water, fuel, and electricity to the civilian population of Gaza and call on authorities to refrain from unlawful indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks.

Erdogan should condemn Hamas’ October 7 attacks on civilians and subsequent indiscriminate rocket attacks and press Hamas and other Palestinian groups to immediately release civilians held hostage.

Human Rights Watch has called on allies of Israel, including Germany and backers of Palestinian armed groups, to suspend the transfer of arms to the warring parties in Israel and Gaza given the real risk that they will be used to commit grave abuses.

It is essential Turkey’s domestic human rights and rule of law crisis is addressed in the talks. Turkey’s refusal to implement key judgements of the European Court of Human Rights by not releasing human rights defender Osman Kavala and Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş have put it on a collision course with the Council of Europe, Europe’s leading human rights body. Germany needs to remind Turkey’s president that the government’s noncompliance with the court brings a credible risk of repercussions for Turkey, such as loss of voting rights in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Migration is also likely to be on the agenda. While providing billions of euros to assist Turkey in hosting an estimated 3.3 million Syrian refugees, European Union member states, including Germany, should convey to Erdogan that this financial assistance is not a carte blanche for Turkey to push back asylum seekers or transfer Syrian refugees to so-called safe zones in northern Syria under the guise of voluntary repatriation. 

Germany should pursue a rights-based approach to migration within the European Union and urge Turkey to maintain protection for Syrians, Afghans, and other refugees, and to stop subjecting people with credible protection claims to arbitrary detention and deportation to countries where they will face grave danger.

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