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German trade trip aims to heal rift with Turkey

German trade trip aims to heal rift with Turkey

Turkey : Germany has sent dozens of ministers and businessmen to Turkey, in the biggest sign yet of its determination to overcome a crisis in relations between the two countries.

The 80-strong delegation led by Peter Altmaier, German economics minister and a key ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, is being seen in Turkey as an important show of solidarity when the country is losing investor confidence and bracing for a painful recession.

Mr Altmaier said Germany would not let its concerns about human rights in Turkey overshadow the pursuit of better economic relations. “There are questions which it makes more sense to discuss among friends, and try to resolve, than to discuss heatedly in public,” he said after a meeting on Thursday with Berat Albayrak, his Turkish counterpart.

Mr Altmaier acknowledged that Germany and Turkey had experienced some “difficult moments” in the past few years, but people in both countries felt that “our relationship cannot be reduced to these problems”.

Germany and Turkey, who are Nato allies, have ties that stretch back decades. Germany is home to 3m Turks, many of whom arrived as Gastarbeiter or guest workers in the 1960s and 1970s but retain close family links to their homeland.

But the relationship between the two has been badly strained by tensions over Turkey’s direction under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is accused by critics of hollowing out the country’s democratic institutions and concentrating power in his hands.

There was outrage in Berlin at the wave of repression unleashed by the Turkish authorities after a violent attempted coup in July 2016, which left 250 people dead. About 130,000 public sector workers were sacked and there were mass arrests of suspected coup plotters. A number of German citizens, including the journalist Deniz Yucel and the human rights activist Peter Steudtner, were imprisoned in the sweep; both have since been released.