People in Europe won’t be able to “walk safely” and freely on the streets if they don’t change their current attitudes, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has warned, amid a deepening diplomatic row over the cancellation of Turkish rallies in the EU.
“If Europe continues this way, no European in any part of the world can walk safely on the streets. We, as Turkey, call on Europe to respect human rights and democracy,” Erdogan told a group of local journalists in Ankara on Wednesday, Reuters reported.
During his inaugural address, Germany’s new president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said Erdogan risks undermining everything Ankara has achieved in recent years.
“The way we look (at Turkey) is characterized by worry that everything that has been built up over years and decades is collapsing,” Steinmeier said during his inaugural speech on Wednesday.
“President Erdogan, you are jeopardizing everything that you, with others, have built,” he noted, adding that he would welcome “credible signs” to ease the conflict.
“But end the unspeakable Nazi comparisons!” Steinmeier stressed. “Do not cut ties with those who want partnership with Turkey! Respect the rule of law and the freedom of media and journalists! And release [German-Turkish journalist] Deniz Yucel,” he added.
Ankara is embroiled in a war of words with several European countries that have barred political rallies supporting a Turkish constitutional referendum scheduled for April.
Earlier this month, Erdogan branded Dutch authorities as “Nazi remnants” after the government withdrew permission for Turkey’s foreign minister to land and speak at a pro-Erdogan rally in Rotterdam.
He has also slammed a number of local authorities for canceling similar political rallies for Turkish ex-pats in German cities that had been scheduled in March.
The speakers were going to promote the upcoming referendum on constitutional changes that could see Erdogan’s presidential powers greatly expanded.
At a rally in Istanbul on Sunday, the Turkish leader once again labeled certain European countries “Nazis,” saying they “would revive gas chambers” if they weren’t so ashamed.To add fuel to the fire, Erdogan turned his sights directly on Germany’s chancellor.
“When we call them Nazis, they [European politicians] get uncomfortable. They rally together in solidarity. Especially Merkel,” he said.
“Merkel… She backs [the Netherlands], too. You too are practicing Nazi practices. On whom? On my Turkish brothers and sisters in Germany,” the Turkish leader added.
The remark sparked outrage in Germany, where the country’s notorious Nazi past and the crimes of Hitler’s regime are still sensitive issues.
“The comparisons between today’s Federal Republic of Germany and National Socialism, which we have heard in recent days, are not only insulting and absolutely false – they also relativize the Nazis’ rule of terror,” said Josef Schuster, the head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, as cited by Deutsche Welle.
Other German politicians have also lambasted Erdogan’s Nazi comparisons.
“Has Mr Erdogan lost his mind?” asked Julia Kloeckner, the vice-president of Merkel’s CDU party. She also told journalists that she would urge the EU to halt the transfer of “financial aid worth billions of euros” to Turkey, Die Zeit reported.
Earlier, Merkel also urged Ankara to stop using Nazi references, saying that Germany “will not allow the victims of the Nazis to be trivialized.”
Her appeal appears to have fallen on deaf ears.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (born 26 February 1954) is a Turkish politician who has been the President of Turkey since 2014. He previously served as the Prime Minister of Turkey from 2003 to 2014 and as the Mayor of Istanbul from 1994 to 1998. He founded the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2001 and led it to three general election victories in 2002, 2007 and 2011 before standing down as leader upon his election as President in 2014. Originating from an Islamist political background and as a self-described conservative democrat, his administration has overseen social conservative and liberal economic policies. His political agenda and ideals are often referred to as Erdoğanism.
Erdoğan was a semi-professional footballer playing for Kasımpaşa before being elected as the Mayor of Istanbul from the Islamist Welfare Party in 1994. He was stripped and banned from office and imprisoned for 4 months for the recitation of a poem in a political speech in 1998 after which he abandoned openly Islamist politics and established the moderate conservative AKP in 2001. The AKP won a landslide victory in the 2002 general election, with the party’s co-founder Abdullah Gül becoming Prime Minister until his government annulled Erdoğan’s ban from political office. Erdoğan subsequently became Prime Minister in March 2003 after winning a seat in a by-election held in Siirt.
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