Mon, Mar 06, 2017 - Page 4 News List

Turkey’s pro-Erdogan rallies worry Germans and Dutch

Reuters, ISTANBUL, Turkey, and BERLIN

Turkey on Saturday said it would keep holding rallies in Germany and the Netherlands to urge Turks living there to back a vote to boost Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers, despite opposition from authorities in both countries.

Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu criticized German and Dutch restrictions on such gatherings as undemocratic, and said Turkey would press on with them in the run-up to the April 16 referendum.

“None of you can prevent us,” he told a campaign event in southern Turkey. “We can go anywhere we want, meet our citizens, hold our meetings.”

The defiant Turkish comments highlight the importance Erdogan places on securing the new powers, especially since a failed military coup in July last year, in what could turn out to be a close vote.

The disagreement has led to sharp exchanges between the NATO partners.

Adding to the tensions, Germany has demanded the release of a German journalist arrested in Turkey on Monday last week, while Erdogan on Friday called him a “German spy.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday spoke by telephone with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, a German government spokesman said, without providing details of the conversation.

German Minister of Foreign Affairs Sigmar Gabriel, who is to meet with his Turkish counterpart in Berlin this week, warned against stirring up tensions between the two countries, but also said Berlin would not refrain from criticism where warranted.

“The German-Turkish friendship runs deeper than the diplomatic tensions we are experiencing today,” he wrote in an essay published yesterday in the Bild am Sonntag newspaper. “We cannot allow hate and misunderstanding to grow out of political differences.”

Gabriel said Turkish politicians who wanted to campaign in Germany should respect the “rules of law, as well as decency.”

Several members of Merkel’s coalition on Saturday voiced concerns about Turkish politicians rallying support among Germany’s 1.5 million Turkish citizens.

“We don’t want marketing for the undemocratic and illegitimate Turkish referendum on German soil,” Juergen Hardt, foreign policy spokesman for Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union, told reporters.

Several events have already been blocked for security reasons, sparking anger among Turkish leaders who accused Germany of double standards.

Turkish Minister of Economy Nihat Zeybekci has had two events canceled, but planned to speak yesterday at events in Leverkusen and Cologne.

The Dutch government on Friday said it would inform Ankara of its opposition to “undesirable” proposals to hold a referendum rally in Rotterdam.

“The Netherlands told us ‘You can’t campaign in our public spaces.’ What do you mean, we can’t? Where is democracy ... where is freedom of expression?” Cavusoglu said.

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