German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday condemned the attempted military coup in Turkey and said Berlin stands by those who defend democracy and the rule of law, which must be observed when dealing with the coup’s supporters.
Elmar Brok, a Merkel ally and chair of the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, had earlier said he expected Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to take advantage of the attempted coup to strengthen his grip on power.
“It’s tragic that so many people died during this attempted coup,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin. “The bloodshed in Turkey must stop now.”
Merkel said it was the right of the Turkish people to choose their political leader in free elections, and that political change should only be achieved within the framework of political institutions and the rules of democratic competition.
“Tanks on the streets and air strikes against their own people are injustice,” Merkel said.
The conservative leader called on the Turkish government to treat the arrested supporters of the attempted coup in line with the fundamental principles of the rule of law.
“We are guided by solidarity with all political forces in the government and the opposition who are committed to precisely these values,” Merkel said. “Especially when dealing with those responsible for the tragic events of last night, the state under the rule of law should prove itself.”
European Parliament President Martin Schulz also urged Ankara to stick to the rule of law.
“As distressing as the coup attempt is, which I condemn in the strongest terms, the Turkish government should not take the opportunity for its part to break democratic principles”, Schulz told Tagesspiegel am Sonntag newspaper.
GRIP ON POWER
Brok, who is a senior member of Merkel’s Christian Democrats, spoke to Die Welt newspaper overnight as Erdogan loyalists fought back against the power grab and the Turkish leader told supporters he would “clean up” the army.
“Erdogan will try to extend his position of power,” the veteran member of the European parliament was quoted as saying in the interview published on Saturday, adding that such a move could lead to a “dramatic divide” in Turkish society.
“Turkey must quickly return to constitutional order. This would apply to the military as well as for Erdogan who currently fulfils a function as president that is not foreseen in the constitution,” Brok added.
Erdogan and his supporters are pushing for a more executive presidency, saying it would guard against the sort of fractious coalition politics that hampered Turkey’s development in the 1990s.
His opponents, and some skeptical Western allies, have accused Erdogan of growing authoritarianism. Opposition newspapers have been shut and journalists and academics critical of government policies sacked.
There was no immediate reaction to Brok’s words from Turkey, where Erdogan and his supporters said they were fighting for democracy as they tried to crush the last remnants of the coup attempt on Saturday.
“OBJECTIVE OF AUTOCRACY”
The leader of Germany’s opposition Green party, Cem Oezdemir, echoed Brok’s message.
“Erdogan won’t let this opportunity be missed to not only thoroughly clean the military but to finally realize his project of a constitutional amendment with the objective of autocracy,” Oezdemir told Welt am Sonntag newspaper.
“The few critical media outlets and the first green shoots of civil society have certainly nothing good to expect.”
Germany has led talks with Turkey through the European Union, seeking its help in controlling a record influx of migrants. Turkey has long sought to join the bloc.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also called for restraint. “It is encouraging that the parties represented in the Turkish parliament declared their support for the democratic principles,” Steinmeier said.
In a sign that the events in Turkey are stirring emotions in Germany, several thousand people took to the streets in Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Essen and other cities to show support for the Turkish government, police said.
Germany is home to about 3 million people of Turkish origin, most of whom came to Germany to work in the 1960s and 1970s, or as refugees fleeing violence in the 1980s and 1990s.