In an interview with the Funke media group on Monday, Gabriel said that because he didn’t expect Turkey or Ukraine to join the 27-nation bloc anytime soon, the EU should look for “alternative forms of closer cooperation” with Ankara and Kiev.
In a clear sign that Ankara’s recent gestures demonstrating its desire to mend fences with the EU haven’t fallen on deaf ears in Berlin, Gabriel added that this new approach could result in a "new, closer form of customs union" with Turkey.
Last week, Ankara released another German citizen, David Britsch, who was jailed while on a pilgrimage for peace in the Middle East.
Sigmar Gabriel welcomed the pilgrim’s release saying that “decisions like this make us hope we can rebuild confidence and the bilateral relationship step by step.”
Shortly before that, Turkish-German journalist Mesale Tolu was likewise released from prison in Istanbul after spending seven months behind bars on charges of alleged links to a terrorist organization.
He has not been allowed to return to Germany though.
Relations between the EU and Turkey soured following the coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016.
In October, President Erdogan said that Ankara no longer needs EU membership, but fell short of saying that it would cancel EU accession talks with Brussels.
The Turkish authorities’ clampdown on the opposition after the failure of the coup has invited harsh criticism from Brussels and some EU member states.