Merkel renews demand that Erdoğan drop Nazi comments

Chancellor Angela Merkel said on March 20 that her demand that Turkey cease drawing Nazi comparisons with Germany and its allies applies “without ifs or buts,” and pointed to a government threat last week that it could prevent Turkish politicians from entering the country.

Merkel’s comments came after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused her personally of “committing Nazi practices.”

Erdoğan’s comments were the latest escalation in a string of comments by Turkish officials drawing Nazi parallels with present-day Germany and the Netherlands in a dispute over restrictions on Turkish ministers campaigning there for an upcoming referendum that will decide whether the current parliamentary system should be replaced with an executive presidency.

“My comment that the Nazi comparisons on Turkey’s part must end is valid without ifs or buts,” Merkel said at a joint press conference with visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Hannover.

“Unfortunately we see that these comparisons have not ceased, and we are not going to allow … every taboo to be broken with no regard to the suffering of those who were persecuted and murdered under Nazism,” she said.

Merkel pointed to a Foreign Ministry note sent to Turkey last week allowing Turkish referendum polling stations in Germany, in which Ankara was told that appearances by Turkish politicians must respect the principles of the German constitution, and that Berlin otherwise reserves the right to “take all necessary measures.”

Meanwhile, Merkel’s spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer deemed the Nazi comparisons as “unacceptable.”

“The government is watching this very closely, and we maintain that Nazi comparisons are unacceptable in any form,” Demmer said on March 20, adding that it was up to Turkey to tone down its rhetoric and avert damage to relations between the two countries.

President Erdoğan on March 19 said that “Germany’s mission was not to support terrorist organizations.”

 “Merkel, now you’re applying Nazi methods against my brothers who live in Germany, and against my ministers and lawmakers who visit there. Would this suit the ethics of politics? Your mission is not to support terrorist organizations, but to extradite them,” Erdoğan said in an event in Istanbul. 

On March 19, he also said Germany would like to reopen Nazi gas chambers. “If they weren’t ashamed, they would revive the gas chambers.”

Another German official who commented on the Nazi comparison was the former European Parliament President and leader of the Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD), Martin Schulz, who was formally endorsed by the party as their leader and challenger to Merkel on March 19 in what is set to be a tightly contested national election in September.

“This is impertinence. The fact that the head of state of a friendly country insults the country’s governor in this form is impertinence,” Schulz told ARD on March 20, adding that it should be told to Erdoğan, as a head of state of a NATO member and an EU candidate for accession, that the practices of international diplomacy cannot be violated.

“However, that’s what he does and it is unworthy of a head of state,” he said. 

Schulz also said he supports the ban on Turkish ministers who want to carry out referendum campaigns. 
“There is no place in Germany for those who want to use their diplomatic immunity for making party propaganda,” he said. 

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, meanwhile, branded Erdoğan’s comments “shocking.”

“We are tolerant but we’re not stupid,” he told the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper. 

“That’s why I have let my Turkish counterpart know very clearly that a boundary has been crossed here,” Gabriel said.

A German Foreign Ministry spokesman indicated that Berlin had no interest in “entering a spiral of mutual provocations designed to boost support for Erdoğan among Turkish overseas voters.”

“Who would really benefit from it if we paid back in kind, if we answered using the same language as the Turkish president?” said the ministry spokesman, Martin Schaefer.

“It benefits mostly the Turkish president who… with threats, insults and more is seeking majorities of Turkish citizens in Turkey and also… in Germany for the constitutional referendum of April 16.” 

To hit back with strong verbal retaliation would mean “falling for Erdoğan’s tactic,” Schaefer said, stressing that Germany is “a strong, democratic country” that could handle such insults.

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