Germany's Turks, Kurds clash over 'imported' Syria conflict
BERLIN - Berlin and Ankara planned to discuss on Wednesday Turkey's cross-border offensive against a Kurdish militia in Syria, officials said, amid controversy over German-built tanks being deployed in the conflict.
German ambassador Martin Erdmann and Turkish Defence Minister Nurettin Canikli were to talk about "how the Turkish operation is equipped," said German foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Adebahr.
The German government has come under domestic pressure after battlefield images appeared to show Turkey deploying German-made Leopard 2 tanks in its offensive to oust Kurdish militants in northern Syria.
The Kurdish Community Group of Germany accused Berlin of "complicity through weapons delivery to the terror state Turkey".
German conservative lawmaker Norbert Roettgen, who heads the parliamentary committee of foreign affairs, urged Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel to halt further arms deals with Turkey.
"It is completely out of the question for Germany to increase the combat strength of the Leopard tanks in Turkey if the Turkish army is going after the Kurds in northern Syria," Roettgen told Tagesspiegel daily.
Roettgen, a leading figure in Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU party, said weapons deliveries to Turkey should instead "be banned due to the human rights situation and the dismantling of the rule of law in the country."
Germany's criticism of the human rights situation in Turkey, particularly after the government's crackdown following a failed coup in 2016, badly strained ties between the NATO allies.
Relations have started to gradually thaw in recent weeks with the foreign ministers of both countries vowing to mend ties.
But Turkey's offensive against the Kurdish militia threatens to reverse the rapprochement with Germany, which is home to large ethnic Turkish and Kurdish minorities.
Berlin delivered 354 Leopard 2 tanks to Turkey between 2006 and 2011.
Under the weapons deal sealed in 2005, Ankara is prohibited only from giving or selling the tanks to third parties without prior approval from Berlin, with no other restrictions on how the tanks are used.
- Skirmishes -
Leading Turkish and Kurdish groups in Germany on Wednesday accused each other of "importing" a foreign conflict in the wake of Ankara's cross-border offensive against a Syrian Kurdish militia.
Skirmishes have erupted between the two groups in Germany since Turkey on Saturday launched its operation "Olive Branch" to oust the US-backed YPG, whom Ankara views as a terror group, from their Afrin enclave in northern Syria.
Three million ethnic Turks live in Germany, the largest diaspora and a legacy of the country's "guest worker" programme of the 1960 and 70s, as well as hundreds of thousands of Kurds.
Germany's Turkish-dominated Coordination Council of Mosques said the conflict had been used as an excuse to launch a spate of "attacks on Turkish mosque groups" in Europe's biggest economy.
"The fighting in northern Syria has been taken as an opportunity to incite against Turkish infrastructure and in particular mosques, and to import terror into Germany," it said in a statement.
At least two mosques of the Turkish-controlled Ditib group were hit in western Germany's Minden and the eastern city of Leipzig, said the council.
Windows of the buildings were smashed and walls vandalised, said the council, without naming possible suspects.
It also pointed to a brawl that broke out between Kurds and Turkish passengers at Hanover Airport on Monday, which forced police to intervene to separate the two sides.
"We condemn these attacks and call for calm on all sides," said the council.
The Kurdish Community of Germany, for its part, accused Ditib imams of calling for jihad against the Kurds in Syria.
"The believers are told to pray for a victory of the Turkish army in the war against the Kurds," the Kurdish group said, deploring the "instrumentalisation of religion and mosques for a war".
"Mosques, that are partly financed by taxes and donations from citizens in Germany, are praying for glorious victory and death through jihad, the holy war," added the group's deputy leader Mehmet Tanriverdi.