Turkey drops terror link charge against German firms: Berlin

Relations between Berlin and Ankara have plumbed new lows (AFP Photo/ODD ANDERSEN)

Berlin (AFP) - Germany said Monday Turkey had informed it that Ankara had dropped accusations of "terrorism" funding against major German companies, amid a raging dispute between the NATO partners.

After the reported claims against nearly 700 German firms including giants Daimler and BASF added further tensions to the dispute, the German and Turkish interior ministers held talks aimed at clearing up the issue.

The Turkish government later said the request related to 140 Turkish companies accused of links to the movement led by the US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen but denied it had ever concerned German firms.

Ankara blamed Gulen for the July 15 failed coup but he denies the claims.

German interior ministry spokesman Tobias Plate said Berlin had been told that the list of companies with Turkish operations being investigated for "financing of terrorism" had been withdrawn, saying the suspicion had been based on a "communication problem".

Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu "assured us that the Turkish authorities were not investigating companies on the list in Turkey or in Germany," he said.

Deputy Prime Minister and Turkish government spokesman Bekir Bozdag confirmed that Turkey had recalled the list at the weekend, adding Soylu held a "constructive" discussion with his German counterpart Thomas de Maiziere.

"It was confirmed there was a communication error in the request to Germany... This information request was recalled at the weekend," he said, stressing there was no investigation.

German newspaper Die Zeit reported last week the companies probed ranged from industrial behemoths to a stall selling doner kebab in the west of Germany.

- 'Black propaganda' -

There has in the last days been a spike in existing tensions tensions between the NATO allies over arrests of German citizens as part of the crackdown in Turkey that followed the July 15 failed coup.

But there have been signs in the last days Turkey does not want the dispute intensifying, and its leaders have been quick to rubbish the so-called "terror list" claims.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the reports were "black propaganda" aimed at pressurising German companies not to invest in Turkey.

"You have no power to darken Turkey," Erdogan said.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim had also dismissed the report as "entirely a lie" and urged Berlin to solve an escalating crisis through dialogue.

A spokeswoman for the German economy ministry, Tanja Alemany, said Monday that despite the "clarification" of the issue, it would "take a while before German companies can win back confidence" in Turkey as a place to do business.

But Bozdag insisted Turkey was an "extremely safe" environment for foreign investors and capital.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel had said on Thursday that Berlin would review state guarantees for foreign investment in Turkey and urge businesses against putting their money in the country.

The German foreign ministry also warned it could no longer guarantee its citizens' safety in Turkey, in a move sure to impact Turkey's crucial tourism industry.

The latest crisis was precipitated by the order of a Turkish court to remand in custody six human rights activists detained on an island off Istanbul including Amnesty International's Turkey director Idil Eser and Berlin-based activist Peter Steudtner.

But Berlin was already furious over the jailing in February of Deniz Yucel, Turkey correspondent for Die Welt newspaper, who Erdogan has personally denounced as a "terror agent".

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