Erdogan chides Merkel over use of ‘Islamist terror’ term

Merkel and Erdogan at the Presidential Palace, 2 February

Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan chided German Chancellor Angela Merkel over her use of the term “Islamist terror” when describing the Islamic State.

The leaders met at the  Presidential Palace in Ankara this afternoon and held a press conference after the closed meeting.

Responding to a comment by Merkel that a joint struggle needed to be waged against the IS group, Erdogan said the use of the term “Islamist terror” was not correct.

“Islam means peace. Bringing together the terms ‘Islam’ and ‘terror’ will only upset Muslims around the world. I would like to ask that this term not be used to describe the jihadist terror of Islamic State,” Erdogan said.

Merkel responded to Erdogan’s comment, saying ‘Islam’ and ‘Islamism’ were not the same thing and that the German nation had stood against all kinds of terror.

“Religious freedoms are very important for me. In Germany we are doing everything we can to enable Muslims to practice their beliefs freely. Our people have the utmost respect for Muslims,” Merkel said.

The German Chancellor, who is lacking popular support in the run-up to general elections also warned Erdogan about freedom of speech and press freedom.

“I expressed the importance of freedom of speech in this period and also highlighted press and media freedoms. I also shared my concerns over German journalists facing difficults in getting accreditation to work in the country.”

Regarding the extradition of people Turkey accuses of having ties to the Fethullah Gulen movement, who Ankara alleges was behind the failed coup attempt last year, Merkel said, “to take these [extradition] steps we need evidence. Courts are assessing the evidence provided. Some courts have already decided against extradition. Our justice ministers are going to meet about this. We must respect court rulings and independent investigations.”

The two discussed broadening financial relations between the two countries as well as developments in Iraq and Syria, the fight against terror and the refugee crisis.

Turkey quelled the flow of refugees from Syria and Iraq in 2015 and was promised at least €6m to finance the refugees’ stay. The German Chancellor said the EU had given Turkey €2.2m so far and that the rest of the money needed “to flow” to the country.

Ankara has been accused of blackmailing the EU with Turkish officials saying they would “open the gates” for refugees to go to Europe if the EU did not support Ankara financially and in its Syria policy. The people of Turkey are hosting at least 2.5m refugees fleeing the Syria conflict.