Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Germany May Ban Turkish Campaign Events as Tensions Boil | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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People shout slogans during a protest in front of the Dutch Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, March 12, 2017. (Reuters)

Chancellor Angela Merkel declared on Monday that Germany reserved the right to “take all necessary measures, including reviewing the permissions” for future Turkish campaign events on its soil even if those permits had been granted.

She warned that Germany could ban future campaign events by politicians on its soil unless Ankara stopped “Nazi” jibes aimed at Berlin. Merkel stressed that such insults must stop — “no ifs, no buts”.

A stern-faced Merkel said Monday that such comments were “breaking every taboo, without consideration for the suffering of those who were persecuted and murdered” by the Nazis.

Raising the issue at the start of a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, she stressed that “appearances by Turkish politicians here can only take place on the basis of the principles of German constitutional law”.

Germany on Monday dismissed as unacceptable an accusation by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Merkel is “applying Nazi methods” against Turks and Turkish officials in Germany.

“Nazi comparisons are unacceptable in any form,” a German government spokeswoman said, adding that it was up to Turkey to tone down its rhetoric and avert damage to relations between the two countries.

Erdogan said in a speech in Istanbul on Sunday: “Merkel, now you’re applying Nazi methods. Against my brothers who live in Germany, and against my ministers and lawmakers who visit there. Would this suit the ethics of politics? Your mission is not to support terrorist organizations, but to extradite them.”

Turkey and the European Union — especially Germany with its large Turkish diaspora — are locked in a bitter dispute as tensions rise ahead of an April 16 referendum on expanding Erdogan’s powers.

Erdogan made the remark about Merkel at the weekend after the authorities in Germany had refused to allow several Turkish ministers to campaign for a “yes” vote on their soil.

Merkel’s spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said Monday: “The government is watching this very closely, and we maintain that Nazi comparisons are unacceptable in any form.”

She refrained from further comment, however, while a foreign ministry spokesman indicated that Berlin had no interest in entering a spiral of mutual provocations designed to boost support for Erdogan among Turkish overseas voters.

“Who would really benefit from it if we paid back in kind, if we answered using the same language as the Turkish president,” said the ministry spokesman, Martin Schaefer.

“It benefits mostly the Turkish president who… with threats, insults and more is seeking majorities of Turkish citizens in Turkey and also… in Germany for the constitutional referendum of April 16.”

To hit back with strong verbal retaliation would mean falling for Erdogan’s tactic, Schaefer said, stressing that Germany is “a strong, democratic country” that could handle such insults.

“We are not defenseless or stupid or naive and, if pushed too far, the government will react.”

Demmer said it was “up to the Turkish government to moderate its rhetoric and prevent lasting damage to bilateral relations”.

Turkey reacted furiously to a Frankfurt rally on Saturday urging a “no” vote where protesters brandished insignia of outlawed Kurdish rebels, accusing Germany of double standards.

“Yesterday (Saturday), Germany put its name under another scandal,” presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told CNN-Turk. He said the German ambassador had been summoned although this was not confirmed by Berlin.

The Turkish foreign ministry accused the German authorities “of the worst example of double standards” for allowing the pro-Kurdish protest while preventing Turkish ministers from campaigning there.

Many protesters carried symbols of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), listed as a terror organization not just by Turkey but also the EU and the United States.