G20 SUMMIT

Erdogan Brings Complaints to Hamburg

Turkey’s President Erdogan waits for the start of a meeting with EU Council President Tusk in Brussels
Not known to mince words. Picture source: Reuters.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has sharpened his criticism of the German government on the eve of the G20 summit in Hamburg.

Mr. Erdogan, in an interview with Handelsblatt’s sister publication Die Zeit, was particularly critical of Berlin’s refusal to let him hold a rally with his compatriots on the sidelines of the summit, which is due to start Friday.

“That is political suicide,” Mr. Erdogan told Germany’s most read weekly newspaper. “Germany must correct this mistake.”

The controversy over the rally is the latest in a string of disagreements between the two countries that have prompted Mr. Erdogan to accuse Germany of “Nazi-era tactics.” Last month, Berlin lawmakers voted to withdraw German troops from a Turkish base after Ankara blocked parliamentarians from visiting them.

“You have to extradite these terrorists to Turkey. For as long as you don't do so, Turkey will see Germany as a country that protects terrorists.”

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish president

The tension with Turkey is one of the many issues German Chancellor Angela Merkel is juggling as she hosts the leaders of the G20 countries in the north German port city. She must also contend with US President Donald Trump’s attacks on free trade and climate change while defusing any tensions with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

In the interview with Die Zeit, Mr. Erdogan also took Ms. Merkel to task for her efforts to secure the release of German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel, who has been imprisoned in Turkey for more than three months on suspicion of supporting terrorism.

“The fact that Ms. Merkel placed the saving of a terror suspect on the agenda was something I found very, very peculiar,” Mr. Erdogan said in the interview, which was conducted earlier this week.

When questioned whether a journalist who interviews a terrorist or an alleged terrorist should be considered a supporter of terrorism, Mr. Erdogan said such an action is a crime. “By doing so, you are abetting the propaganda of the terrorists,” he said. “That is how it is seen by courts around the world.”

The Turkish president also voiced his bewilderment over the German government’s unwillingness to extradite followers of Turkish exile Fethullah Gülen, who is considered a terrorist leader by Ankara.

“You have to extradite these terrorists to Turkey,” Mr. Erdogan said. “For as long as you don’t do so, Turkey will see Germany as a country that protects terrorists.”

In spite of his criticism, Mr. Erdogan stressed the importance of Turkey’s relationship to Germany because of their partnership in NATO, the trade between the two countries, and the fact that Germany is home to 3 million ethnic Turks.

“We have always wanted to maintain our good relations with Germany, and we still want to,” he said. “We need each other. We must preserve that.”

Mr. Erdogan said that he and Ms. Merkel have no personal issues. “I don’t have a problem with the chancellor,” he said. “There is no animosity between the chancellor and myself.”

But he was critical of Ms. Merkel’s “coalition partners,” referring to the Social Democrats. He contrasted the “ideological” attacks of SPD leader Martin Schulz on Turkish policy with the friendlier attitude of SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, Merkel’s predecessor.

“I miss those times,” Mr. Erdogan said. “Because relations with Schröder were really quite different. They were very good. I hope that we can return to that.”

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