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Germany Plays Down Tension with Turkey as 11-man ‘Death Squad’ Arrested | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends an interview with Reuters at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Berlin admitted on Monday that it is going through a bumpy patch in its relations with Ankara as it played down Turkey’s decision to call in a high-ranking German diplomat over a rally in Cologne.

“In the day-to-day dealings between countries, it is a daily event — normal for a representative of a country to be called in to the foreign ministry of his host country,” Martin Schaefer, spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry told journalists.

“That happens in Turkey… That happens too in Berlin. Therefore that is not unusual,” he said, adding that the meeting had likely to do with Sunday’s demonstration.

Tens of thousands of people had rallied in Cologne in support of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan following the failed coup on July 15.

But Ankara was angered by a German court’s decision to ban the demonstration’s organizers from screening live speeches from Turkey by politicians.

Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin called the ban unacceptable and a “violation of the freedom of expression and the right to free assembly.”

“We have had phases in the past that were bumpy and other phases when things went extraordinarily well. Now we have a bit of a bumpy phase,” Schaefer told a regular government news conference.

“But I think the relations between Germany and Turkey are so close and so deep … that I am quite confident we will manage again to overcome this not so easy phase of bilateral relations with Turkey,” he added.

Germany is home to three million ethnic Turks, making up Turkey’s largest diaspora, and tensions over the coup have put authorities there on edge.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said authorities have arrested 11 fugitive soldiers suspected of involvement in an attack on Erdogan’s hotel during the night of the failed coup.

Erdogan was staying in the western seaside resort of Marmaris on July 15 but dashed to Istanbul just before the hotel came under attack from rebel soldiers determined to oust him from power.

“Eleven of them were captured in Ula,” Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus told a press conference after a cabinet meeting, referring to a town near Marmaris.

He said one soldier was still at large.

Erdogan earlier said his swift escape had saved him from being killed or taken hostage.

An interior ministry official, who declined to be named, described the arrested men as members of a “death squad” and said the overnight operation to catch them followed a tip-off from local villagers.

Since the coup, Erdogan has launched a massive purge of Turkish institutions, especially the military, with more than 3,000 armed forces personnel dismissed.

Kurtulmus also said Monday that Turkey is considering the restructuring of its intelligence services.

“The restructuring of intelligence units is on the agenda, just like it was for the armed forces,” Kurtulmus said.

Erdogan wants to bring the national intelligence agency (MIT) and the military General Staff directly under the control of the presidency, Turkish officials have said, though this would require a constitutional amendment for which he would need the support of opposition parties.