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Turkey summons German envoy over Kurdish rally held in in Cologne

Merkel says no choice but to restrict economic ties with Turkey to pressure it into releasing detained German citizens
Woman takes selfie with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, center, as she continues on election campaign trail in Stralsund on Saturday, week before Germans head to polls (AFP)

Turkey summoned the German ambassador to Ankara on Saturday over what it said was a Kurdish militant rally in Cologne, the foreign ministry said, in a further sign of strained relations between the NATO allies.

"We condemn the organisation of a rally in the German city of Cologne by the extensions of the PKK terrorist organisations, and the allowing of terror propaganda. We have voiced our reaction in a strong manner to Germany's ambassador to Ankara, who was called to the ministry," it said.

State-run Anadolu news agency said Kurdish supporters demonstrated in Cologne on Saturday, carrying posters calling for the release of Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is listed as a terrorist group by the European Union and the United States, and is banned in Germany. The outlawed PKK has waged an insurgency in Kurdish majority southeast Turkey since 1984.

The statement criticised German authorities for allowing Ocalan's posters to be unfurled and group leaders' messages to be read out during the rally. Turkey has previously accused Germany of not doing enough to stop PKK activities.

"The double standard approach Germany has been following with regards to the global fight against terrorism is worrying. We call on Germany to show a principled stance against all kinds of terror," the ministry said.

Turkey’s relations with Europe, particularly Germany, have been strained since President Tayyip Erdogan launched a crackdown after a failed coup last year.

More than 50,000 people have been jailed pending trial and about 150,000 people, including journalists and opposition figures, have been sacked or suspended from their jobs.

Relations further deteriorated after the detention of several German citizens including Deniz Yucel, a correspondent for Die Welt newspaper, prompting Berlin to announce a full review of relations and to sharpen its travel advisory.

Germany has criticised the mass arrests, refused to extradite people Turkey says were involved in the putsch attempt and demanded the release of German citizens arrested in recent months

Germany's Merkel may restrict ties

Chancellor Angela Merkel, meanwhile, said in remarks published on Saturday that Germany will have no choice but to restrict its economic ties with Turkey to pressure it into releasing German citizens imprisoned on political grounds.

"We will have to further cut back our joint economic cooperation with Turkey and scrutinise projects," Merkel told the Passauer Neuen Presse newspaper in an interview when asked how she wants to secure the release of Germans held in Turkey.

The simmering tensions have seeped into campaigning for a federal election in Germany, especially after Erdogan urged German Turks to boycott the main parties in the vote on 24 September.

Home to some 3 million people of Turkish descent, Germany has traditionally had good relations with Turkey, which is also a major trade partner and tourist destination for German sun-seekers.

Still, German officials have been enraged by Turkey's arrests of German citizens, including the German-Turkish journalist Yucel, who has been held for more than 200 days.

Merkel, whose conservatives are expected to win the election and secure her a fourth term in office, said on Tuesday that Germany would restrict some arms sales to Turkey.

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel of the centre-left Social Democrats, who are trailing the conservatives in opinion polls, had earlier said that all major arms exports to Turkey had been put on hold.

Merkel said during a televised debate earlier this month that Turkey should not become a member of the European Union - Turkey's largest trading partner with which it has a customs union.

She said she would talk to Germany's EU partners to reach a compromise on ending Turkey's accession talks with the bloc.

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