Merkel calls for dialogue with Turkey

German chancellor acknowledges ‘serious’ disagreements with Ankara but rejects calls to ban Erdogan's referendum rally

Merkel calls for dialogue with Turkey

World Bulletin / News Desk

 German Chancellor Angela Merkel has defended a close dialogue with Turkey and rejected opposition calls to ban campaign rallies of Turkish politicians in Germany. 

Addressing lawmakers in parliament on Thursday ahead of an EU leaders summit in Brussels, Merkel underlined Turkey’s strategic importance for Germany and said she favored dialogue, despite “deep" and “serious" disagreements on a number of issues.

“While everything is very difficult at the moment, while some of the things are unacceptable for us, it can’t be in our foreign, security and geopolitical interest that Turkey, which is a NATO partner after all, further moves away from us,” she said. 

Merkel underlined that despite their differences, Berlin and Ankara had a special relationship due to the 3 million-strong Turkish community living in Germany, close economic ties and the ongoing cooperation in the fight against terrorism. 

Relations between the two countries turned sour recently, after German local authorities canceled several rallies at which Turkish ministers were to address their countrymen about Turkey’s April 16 referendum on constitutional changes. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed German authorities last week for undermining freedom of expression and said these practices "are no different than the Nazi ones of the past”.

During her address to lawmakers on Thursday, Chancellor Merkel expressed uneasiness over Erdogan’s Nazi comparison, but she also turned down calls by opposition parties to ban rallies by Turkish politicians in Germany, where nearly 1.5 million Turkish citizens are eligible to vote in the upcoming referendum. 

The German chancellor underlined her government’s commitment to freedom of the press, freedom of expression and the right to assembly. 

“These principles also guide us when Turkish politicians want to address meetings here in Germany on the presidential system,” she said while also underlining that organizers should respect German laws and rules and request permission from local authorities in a timely manner. 

Germany’s opposition parties and several media organizations have been campaigning for a ban on rallies by Turkish politicians, claiming that they were undermining social harmony in the country. 

They are also backing the "No" campaign, arguing that the proposed constitutional changes would undermine democracy in Turkey. 

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who met his German counterpart in Berlin on Wednesday, in order to diffuse an escalating tension, urged German authorities not to take sides in Turkey’s referendum and to stop blocking planned events. 

“[Germany] should refrain from favoring the 'Yes' or 'No' campaigns. Because this is an issue of our internal affairs,” he said.

Merkel expressed concernThursday over the proposed constitutional changes by referring to a report from the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission, but she refrained from taking a clear stance on the Turkish referendum. 

Politicians from Turkey’s ruling AK Party and the opposition parties are planning to hold various meetings in Germany this month with the Turkish community on the proposed presidential system in Turkey. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is also expected to hold a rally in Germany, but its exact date and location has not been announced yet. 

Turkish citizens in Germany will cast their votes at consulates between March 27 and April 9.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 09 Mart 2017, 16:36