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Erdogan and Germany's Steinmeier laugh over doner kebab as ties tighten

Erdogan and Germany's Steinmeier laugh over doner kebab as ties tighten


ANKARA Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier shared laughter on Wednesday, lightening the atmosphere amid the tensions that have characterized relations between the two countries since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas.

The two leaders briefly laughed when Erdogan jokingly asked if there were any leftovers of the doner kebab that Steinmeier had sliced ​​in Istanbul, a symbol of ties between German and Turkish cultures.

“I guess all the doner kebab was consumed in Istanbul,” Erdogan told Steinmeier, who attempted to show off his skills earlier in the week by practicing cutting the iconic Turkish dish. Steinmeier arrived in Istanbul on Monday accompanied by a Berlin chef of Turkish origin, Arif Keles, and 60 kilos of kebab meat, a symbol of diversity and cultural ties between the two countries.

Steinmeier met Erdogan on Tuesday in Ankara at the end of his three-day visit, which also included stops in Istanbul and Turkey's southeastern province of Gaziantep. The region was one of those hit by last year's devastating earthquakes.

This visit, in commemoration of the centenary of diplomatic relations between Turkey and Germany, took place in what the German leader described as a “very difficult period” for Ankara-Berlin relations, given the wide gap between positions of the two countries on the war between Israel and Hamas. .

Speaking at the joint press conference after their talks, Erdogan reiterated his criticism of Israel for its actions in Gaza, but he stopped short of harshly criticizing Berlin for its support for Israel, which he had previously described as paying a “psychological debt” during his term. visit to Berlin in November.

Erdogan accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of “endangering the security of our entire region, including his own citizens, simply to prolong his political life.”

Unfortunately, the humanitarian situation there is serious. Our German friends must recognize this, he added.

Steinmeier also struck a sober tone, emphasizing the commonalities between the two capitals on the war. Israel's security cannot be ensured without an appropriate political perspective for the Palestinians, he said, speaking through a translator. And this political perspective can only be a two-state solution.

Germany is a staunch defender of Israel's right to self-defense and launched a harsh crackdown on pro-Hamas groups in the country after the war. Turkey, meanwhile, does not consider Hamas a terrorist organization and Erdogan frequently accuses Israel of committing genocide in Gaza, comparing Netanyahu to Hitler.

Turkeys are the most in demand: sales of defense products

Regarding bilateral relations, Erdogan reiterated his country's main request addressed to Berlin: the removal of restrictions on sales of the Turkish defense industry.

We want the complete removal of restrictions on the defense industry from our relations, Erdogan said. We hope that Turkey and Germany will now focus on discussing joint production projects rather than facing obstacles, especially in the field of defense.

Ankara accuses Berlin of imposing de facto military embargoes on Turkey because of its operations against the Syrian Democratic Forces. Turkey views the international coalition led by the United States, its main ally in the fight against Islamic State, as a threat to its national security.

Germany is one of Turkey's main trading partners, with a trade volume exceeding $50 billion last year, according to official data.

Turkey is also seeking the green light from Germany to buy 40 Eurofighter Typhoons from a European consortium that makes the fighter jets.

Steinmeier stressed the importance of press freedom and the rule of law for the progress of relations between Turkey and the European Union.

Kebab controversy

Steinmeier's visit to Turkey was full of meaning and a testament to his country's status as home to the world's largest Turkish diaspora.

His tour began at Sirkeci Station in Istanbul, where the first wave of Turkish workers embarked for Germany in the 1960s. Germany is home to more than 3 million Turks who immigrated to the country in as guest workers, or Gastarbeiter in German.

Steinmeier's delegation included families of guest workers, prominent Turkish-German businessmen and politicians.

Videos of the German leader showing meat being cut on Keles' kebab skewer alongside Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu have sparked accusations of orientalism on German and Turkish social media. Turkish-owned Doner kebab shops are quite common in Germany.

Speaking alongside Erdogan on Wednesday, Steinmeier hit back at criticism, saying the large delegation accompanying him reflected the “diversity” of Turkish-German society in Germany. “And Arif Keles’ donor is part of that diversity,” he added.

Despite the controversy, doner was also served at Erdogan's banquet for Steinmeier, the Turkish press reported.




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