The former chief of Germany’s Foreign Intelligence Agency (BND) has rejected claims that his country was becoming a safe haven for the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) group.
Ankara has long-criticized its NATO partner for turning a blind eye to the activities of PKK in Germany.
Here is what Hanning told Anadolu’s news agency about the PKK in Germany and the “Gulen group”:
Banned: Hanning, who headed the BND between 1998 and 2005, underlined that the PKK has been banned in Germany since 1993, and authorities were taking measures against the activities of the group.
The PKK is listed as a “terrorist” organisation in Turkey, the European Union and US.
Democracy: “But on the other side, we have to respect our own liberal framework, our legal framework, and that’s sometimes very difficult to explain it to our Turkish friends,” he said.
“We have a very liberal democracy in Germany. And everybody is allowed to express his views,” he added.
Ties between Ankara and Berlin were strained after the 2016 failed coup in Turkey, as Turkish politicians heavily criticised their German counterparts for failing to show strong solidarity with Turkish government against the attempted military takeover.
“Traditionally, we are really friends and I hope that they could look into the future. But we need efforts from both sides to have a better relationship,” Hanning said.
Turkey and Germany took steps in recent months towards normalisation, and intensified talks to address their political differences on a number of issues.
Several commentators in Turkish media argued that the coup plotters were backed by several Western countries, and they also speculated that several Western intelligence services might have been involved.
But Hanning ruled out any involvement by Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, saying: “It’s completely stupid. We do not have any interest to interfere in the internal Turkish politics. I can assure you, it is completely nonsense.”
According to Ankara, hundreds of Turkish citizens with suspected ties to the coup attempt were granted asylum.
German authorities declined to return the suspects, citing concerns about human rights and the rule of law.
“The Gulen group is active here in Germany, but it is under the radar of the German security forces,” Hanning said.