Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday that Germany wants to patch up frayed ties with Turkey, but without compromising its democratic principles or accepting “Nazi” jibes from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“As difficult as everything is at the moment, as unacceptable as some things are, it can’t be in our security and geopolitical interest that Turkey, a NATO partner after all, grows even more distant from us,” she told parliament.
Merkel vowed to “work for German-Turkish relations, on the basis of our values and in all clarity”—stressing that these included the freedoms of speech, the press and assembly.
German and Turkish politicians have feuded for the past week after local German authorities cancelled several campaign events by Turkish ministers in support of an April referendum on creating an executive presidency in Turkey.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that about 30 rallies were planned and that Ankara had already “informed German authorities of them all”.
Erdogan’s ministers are keen to tap into the diaspora in Germany, which includes 1.4 million people eligible to vote in Turkey—the fourth-largest electoral base after Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.
Although Berlin has insisted that local authorities cancelled the rallies so far for logistical reasons, Turkish officials have repeatedly hit back, with Erdogan angrily comparing such actions to “Nazi practices”.
Merkel said such rhetoric was “sad and depressing”, belittled Holocaust victims and was “so out of place as to be unworthy of serious comment”.
On future rallies, she said: “We continue to view such appearances by Turkish government representatives as possible as long as they are duly announced, in a timely manner, and in an open way, so that they can be approved.” Cavusoglu said that Turkey was “not calling the current administration Nazi” but that the recent bans “unavoidably remind us the practices during that (Nazi) period.”—AFP