Sigmar Gabriel pours tea for Mevlut Çavuşoğlu (Imago/photothek/F. Gaertner)

Germany Will Review Turkey’s Request to Extradite Kurdish Leader


By Andrea Shalal and Leo Rinke

BERLIN (Reuters) — Germany on March 6 said it would review Turkey’s request for the extradition of a Syrian Kurdish leader on constitutional grounds as the two NATO allies continued to try rebuild frayed ties.

Saleh Muslim

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel assured Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who is visiting Berlin to attend the Berlin ITB, the world’s largest tourism fair, that both the request to extradite Saleh Muslim and Turkey’s push for relaxed travel guidance would be carefully examined.

Muslim, who formerly headed the PYD, Syria’s main Kurdish party, spoke at a demonstration in Berlin on Saturday after being detained and then released in Prague.

“We have in fact received a verbal note from the Turkish foreign ministry, and we will send this request, as always, to the (German) justice ministry and they will examine it on constitutional grounds,” Gabriel told reporters at a joint news conference with Cavusoglu before their meeting.

Turkey says Muslim is linked to two bombings in Ankara and has vowed to pursue him “wherever he goes.” On Monday Ankara said it had asked Germany for Muslim’s extradition.

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Ankara considers the PYD and its YPG armed group extensions of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, which has waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey’s largely Kurdish southeast.

Muslim has said the allegations against him are false. He has also said he will remain in European Union territory and cooperate in any further proceedings.

Cavusoglu said he would ask Gabriel at their meeting to revisit travel advisories that have angered Ankara by referring to a risk of arrests, especially for people with both German and Turkish passports.

“I believe the German foreign ministry needs to reevaluate its travel advisory for Turkey,” he told reporters. “It would be beneficial for the German foreign ministry to revise this.”

Gabriel said the foreign ministry had not advised people to avoid traveling to Turkey, but had pointed out heightened risks after the July 2016 attempted coup and given the continuing state of emergency and the arrests of German citizens.

He said he would ask Turkey when it planned to lift the state of emergency. “Turkey will slowly want to return to a normal state of affairs, and that will automatically have consequences for our travel advisories,” he said.

Tourists, a major source of financing for Turkey’s wide current account deficit, are starting to return to the country after attacks blamed on Islamic State and Kurdish militants and an attempted coup scared them away for a couple of years.

Summer bookings to Turkey by German holidaymakers have doubled from a year ago, but remain far from the levels seen a few years ago, German market researcher GfK said last month.

Turkey last month released German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel, removing a key irritant in ties between the two allies, but German officials remain deeply concerned about Turkey’s military operations in northern Syria.

Gabriel told reporters Berlin wanted to see a ceasefire implemented in all of Syria.

“We want to hear what our Turkish colleagues have to say about this. For our part, the German government favors reaching a ceasefire everywhere in Syria,” he said.

Cavusoglu said Turkey’s continuing military operations in Syria’s Afrin were permitted under international law since it was fighting terrorism.

“We are fighting in Afrin against the PYD and the YPG, those are terrorist organizations, and our operations there are in line with international law and the rules of the United Nations.”