The German government said it was not involved in Thursday’s decision by local authorities in the town of Gaggenau to ban an event where Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag was due to speak.
“It was a decision that the German federal government did not influence in any way, and could not have influenced, because it is a matter of state and local law over which we have zero influence,” German foreign ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said.
He added German ambassador Martin Erdmann underscored that message during a “serious but friendly” discussion with Turkish authorities after being summoned to discuss the incident late on Thursday.
Schaefer stressed Germany would do everything it could to maintain an open dialogue with Turkey despite tensions over a range of issues.
Gaggenau said it received a bomb threat Friday, a day after scrapping a rally by Bozdag, who in turn accused Berlin of providing shelter to Ankara’s enemies.
“We received a bomb threat by phone at around 7:30 am (0630 GMT),” Dieter Spannagel, a local official from the western town of Gaggenau, told AFP.
“The caller cited the cancellation of the event with the Turkish justice minister as a reason.”
Mayor Michael Pfeiffer said that the decision to cancel the event was not based on political opposition to Bozdag or the Erdogan government.
“We are only in a position that we can ban this on security grounds,” Pfeiffer told n-tv.
The town of about 30,000 inhabitants on Thursday withdrew an agreement to lease a hall to the Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD) for a rally, with Bozdag as the guest speaker. Gaggenau authorities said a large number of visitors were expected, but that the town did not have the capacity to host such a big crowd.
The decision was met with an angry response from Ankara, with Bozdag himself saying he was also scrapping talks with Germany’s Justice Minister Heiko Maas, whom he had been due to meet during the trip.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Friday accused Germany of working for a “no” vote ahead of the April referendum that would discard the post of prime minister for the first time in Turkey’s history. He told reporters that Germany must “learn how to behave” if it wanted to maintain relations.
Germany is home to about three million people of Turkish origin, the legacy of a massive “guest worker” program in the 1960s and 70s. It is the biggest population of Turks in the world outside Turkey.
Erdogan’s government is keen to harness their votes for the April 16 referendum. Critics say the new presidential system will cement one-man rule in the country.
Bozdag accused Germany of scandalous behavior in cancelling the rallies and said Berlin was providing “a shelter” for people committing crimes against Turkey.
Erdogan’s relations with Germany have worsened markedly, especially since a July attempt to topple him. He accused West European countries of failing to condemn the putsch quickly or strongly enough.