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Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday firmly rejected Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s accusations of “Nazi” practices in a growing row over the cancellation of political rallies by Turkish ministers in Germany.
Steffen Seibert, Ms Merkel’s spokesman, said comparisons between democratic Germany and the Nazi regime played down Nazi crimes. But, in a clear effort to calm the rising tensions between Berlin and Ankara, he also appealed for calm in bilateral ties.
The dispute concerns decisions by local officials in Germany to withdraw permission for weekend rallies in Gaggenau, in the Baden Württemberg region, and Cologne, in which ministers from Mr Erdogan’s government had been expected to urge the Turkish community to vote in a controversial constitutional referendum and back plans to boost the presidential powers.
A third event in Leverkusen, near Cologne, went ahead on Sunday.
Mr Erdogan told a rally in Istanbul on Sunday:
The Germans aren’t letting our friends [ministers] talk . . . Well Germany, you’re no democracy, you’re not even close. Your actions are no different from what the Nazis used to do. You’re giving us lessons on democracy, then you’re stopping a Turkish minister from speaking?
Mr Erdogan is himself reportedly considering a visit to Germany, where 1.5m Turkish citizens live, including many of the president’s supporters. In the 2015 parliamentary election his AKP party won about 60 per cent of the local vote.
The Turkish politicians’ appearances have triggered calls in Germany for a ban on such events, on the grounds that democratic rights in Turkey have been widely attacked, especially in the crackdown that has followed last summer’s failed coup.
But Mr Seibert said the government was not “working on any kind of travel bans”.
He also said Berlin was continuing to press for the early release of Deniz Yucel, a Turkish-German journalist working for the newspaper Die Welt, who has been detained for questioning in a police investigation into alleged support for terrorism. Mr Yucel, who published the contents of confidential government emails, maintains his innocence.
Turkish foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu is now due to visit Berlin on Wednesday for hurriedly-arranged talks with his opposite number, Sigmar Gabriel.
Image via AFP