Germany views Turkey as a “central platform” for Islamist groups throughout the Middle East, according to a leaked internal assessment that could exacerbate tension between Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The government position, based on German intelligence reports, was disclosed in a classified response from the Interior Ministry to the opposition Left Party, public broadcaster ARD reported Tuesday night. The Interior Ministry confirmed a response had been sent, without providing details on the report’s substance. The Interior Ministry added that due to a “clerical error,” the assessment had not been approved by the Foreign Ministry prior to its distribution.
The report details increasing ties between Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party and other regional Islamist groups, including Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, Syrian opposition groups and Palestinian militant group Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S., the European Union and Israel.
“As a result of the gradual Islamization of Ankara’s foreign and domestic policy especially since 2011, Turkey has developed into a central platform of action for Islamist groupings throughout the region,” the Interior Ministry said in the document, according to ARD.
The assessment by officials in Berlin threatens to ratchet up tensions with Erdogan’s government after Merkel spearheaded an EU accord to halt the influx of asylum seekers fleeing the Middle East into Europe. Turkey, grappling with upheaval after a July 15 attempted military coup, has said it will scrap the refugee deal if it’s not granted visa waivers for its citizens traveling to the EU.
Erdogan, who has run Turkey since 2002, has emphasized the country’s role as a regional Islamic-oriented power as he’s tightened his grip over the country and stifled opposition. The president has redoubled his efforts to wrest control over state institutions following the coup attempt, detaining or suspending tens of thousands of officials, including soldiers, judges and academics.