Merkel calls on PKK to free German hostages

German Chancellor Angela Merkel issued a personal appeal on Sunday for the immediate release of three Germans kidnapped in Turkey earlier this week by Kurdish rebels.

Merkel calls on PKK to free German hostages
File photo of Mount Ararat, where the climbers were kidnapped. Photo: DPA

“I call on the kidnappers to immediately release the three Germans,” she said in Sunday’s edition of Bild newspaper, adding that Berlin would not allow itself to be blackmailed.

The German government “will do everything to secure their release and is working directly with the Turkish authorities” on the case, Merkel said.

She said she would discuss the issue when she meets Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a Mediterranean summit in Paris on Sunday.

On Friday, a spokesman for the German foreign ministry called for the “immediate and unconditional release” of the three Germans, who the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) seized from Mount Ararat in Turkey late on Tuesday.

The group said in a statement on Thursday that the tourists would not be released “unless the German state announces that it has given up its hostile policies against the Kurdish people and the PKK.”

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the time rejected demands for a change of policy towards the PKK in exchange for their freedom.

The PKK, considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the United States, has been banned in Germany since 1993, and German authorities have taken legal action against several of the group’s leaders.

According to a report in Monday’s edition of Der Spiegel weekly, the Kurdish rebels warned Germany about the “negative consequences” of its policy towards Kurds at the end of June in a message sent via its embassy in Turkey.

The PKK’s executive council called on the government to give up “its hostile policy towards the Kurdish people and its liberation movement” or take responsibility for “the negative consequences”, the magazine said, without naming its sources.

Shortly afterwards, Turkish police informed their German colleagues of heightened activity within Kurdish circles in Turkey and warned of the likely risk of kidnappings or attacks.

German police passed on the information to the interior ministries of several countries, according to Der Spiegel.

Secretary of state for the interior August Hanning acknowledged to the magazine: “We will probably also have to prepare ourselves for new dangers on German soil.”

The PKK has waged a bloody struggle for self-rule in Turkey’s Kurdish-populated southeast since 1984. While it has kidnapped people in the past, among them soldiers, police and tourists, it is not a regular occurrence.


Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

The German government says it is in talks over further compensation for victims of the attack on the Munich Olympics, as the 50th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

Ahead of the commemoration in September, relatives of the Israelis killed have indicated they are unhappy with what Germany is offering.

“Conversations based on trust are taking place with representatives of the victims’ families,” a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP when asked about the negotiations.

He did not specify who would benefit or how much money had been earmarked, saying only that any package would “again” be financed by the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

On September 5th, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists  held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Horst Ossingert

The spokeswoman for the victims’ families, Ankie Spitzer, told the German media group RND that the amount currently on the table was “insulting” and threatened a boycott of this year’s commemorations.

She said Berlin was offering a total of €10 million including around €4.5 million already provided in compensation between 1972 and 2002 — an amount she said did not correspond to international standards. 

“We are angry and disappointed,” said Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer who was killed in the attack. “We never wanted to talk publicly about money but now we are forced to.”

RND reported that the German and Israeli governments would like to see an accord by August 15th.

The interior ministry spokesman said that beyond compensation, Germany intended to use the anniversary for fresh “historical appraisal, remembrance and recognition”.

He said this would include the formation of a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively” establish what happened “from the perspective of the year 2022”.

This would lead to “an offer of further acts of acknowledgement of the relatives of the victims of the attack” and the “grave consequences” they suffered.