In an interview with German weekly Bild am Sonntag that comes a day before his visit to Ankara on Monday, Gabriel said he would discuss with his Turkish counterpart ways to overcome recent tensions between the two sides, as well as explore possible areas of cooperation, such as countering the PKK, with a view to normalize ties.
“The PKK is also an outlawed organization in our country because it is deeply involved in arms and drug trafficking,” he said, acknowledging the threat posed by the terrorist group.
“It is, therefore, also in our interest to dry up its financial flows and leave no room for their activities on German soil. That’s a point rightly addressed by Turkey,” he added.
Germany outlawed the PKK in 1993, but authorities have been reluctant to take strong measures against propaganda, funding and recruitment activities of the group, which is also listed as a terrorist organization by the EU and the U.S.
The PKK’s activities in Germany have long been a source of tension between Ankara and Berlin. Most recently, Turkey blocked visit of German lawmakers to their soldiers stationed at the Incirlik airbase due to controversial statements, mostly made by lawmakers from the socialist Die Linke party (The Left) who publicly announced their support to the PKK.
Gabriel underlined on Sunday the importance of parliamentary visits to German troops stationed abroad, and renewed his call on Turkey to allow such visits to take place.
“German army is a parliamentary army,” he said, and highlighted that it is controlled by the parliament, not by the government, according to their constitution.
“Therefore, German lawmakers should be able to visit German soldiers in the countries where they are stationed, and not only for once but any time,” he added.
Gabriel also said if a solution is not found to the problem then Germany would have to end its mission in Incirlik.
Since 2015, Germany has stationed six Tornado surveillance jets and a tanker aircraft at Incirlik, along with around 260 personnel, providing intelligence and logistics support for anti-Daesh operations.
Germany is reportedly planning to relocate its troops to an airbase in Jordan if Gabriel’s talks in Ankara does not resolve the months-long dispute between the two NATO allies.