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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Sunday, December 17, 2017

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Germany and Turkey engaged in verbal spat, Merkel warns Erdogan government against ‘Nazi’ comments

Angela Merkel Addressing the German parliament

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BERLIN, Germany - Addressing the German parliament, Chancellor Angela Merkel tore into Turkey after its recent comments accusing Berlin of “Nazi practices.”> BNN

Merkel targeted Turkey’s approach to democracy and the rule of law - calling it "deeply problematic" to the country's future cooperation with the European Union.

The Chancellor said, “These deep differences of opinion relate to basic questions of democracy and the rule of law. They relate to freedom of expression in Turkey. They also relate to the many journalists that have been jailed for expressing their opinion.”

She further reiterated her objections to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s comments over the weekend, where he claimed that Germany's Nazi past might not be entirely behind it.

Merkel blasted the nasty jab and said, “This is completely out of hand and why it's almost impossible to comment on this. It cannot be justified. SS comparisons only lead to misery because it means the crimes committed by the National Socialists in Germany are rendered much more harmless than they actually were."

She added that such comparisons must stop, claiming that they "are not good for the close ties between Germany and Turkey."

Merkel noted that while “Germany must speak up for freedom and democracy, it must not let Turkey - an important ally in European efforts to handle the current migration crisis and combat Islamist extremism - distance itself.”

Citing, “As difficult as all of this might be, our geopolitical interest cannot be that Turkey - which is, after all, a NATO partner - continues to distance itself from us. That is why it is well worth it to stand for the German-Turkish relationships - but on the basis of our values, our perceptions and in all transparency."

“Germany is aiding and harbouring terror”

Over the weekend, Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan attacked German authorities after they cancelled his rallies in the country, ahead of a key referendum.

Erdogan stands to receive sweeping new powers as part of the referendum that will ask voters whether they back a new constitution, in which over 1.4 million expatriate voters, Turks from Germany can vote. 

The new constitution will transform the country from a parliamentary republic to a presidential one - in which Erdogan would receive new powers over the budget, appointment of ministers and judges, and the power to dismiss parliament, among others.

However, permissions for the rallies, planned in Gaggenau, Cologne and Frechen and aimed at wooing the ethnic Turkish voters in Germany were withdrawn by authorities. 

Authorities in Gaggenau said that there was insufficient space for the rally, while officials in Cologne officials pointed out that they had been misled about the purpose of the event.

Expressing his anger while addressing the German authorities at a rally in Istanbul, Erdogan compared German officials to Nazis.

He said, "Your practices are not different from the Nazi practices of the past. I thought it's been a long time since Germany left (Nazi practices). We are mistaken."

Days later as the war of words escalation, on Thursday, following Merkel’s comments, Turkey's foreign minister defended comments accusing Berlin of "Nazi practices.” 

He argued that no German politician was being called a "Nazi."

Mevlut Cavusoglu said, “No one has said (German Chancellor Angela) Merkel is a Nazi or (German Foreign Minister) Signar Gabriel is a Nazi. We have not called anyone a Nazi. Our President made a comparison in reference to certain practices. The trend in Europe at the moment reminds us of pre-World War II Europe."

The cancellations of the rallies also came after a German-Turkish journalist was detained in Turkey. 

The journalist was reportedly accused of being a member of the outlawed Kurdish militant group PKK.

Erdogan had attacked the journalist, employed by the prominent German newspaper Die Welt, calling him a "German agent.” 

The president even accused Germany of "aiding and harbouring terror.”

Erdogan said, “They hosted a terrorist (Can Dundar, a journalist convicted of exposing state secrets during the National Intelligence Organization trucks case) sentenced to five years and ten months in their presidential palace. Is this what you understanding from democracy?" 

Erdogan also attacked German officials for harbouring Gulenist “terror cult” (FETO) members.

Relations between both the countries hit a new low on Sunday.

Erdogan and Turkey as a whole have drawn international criticism after the country decided to crack down on opponents following a failed military coup last year.

Dozens of writers, journalists, soldiers, diplomats, law enforcement officials have been arrested post the failed coup. 

Talks with Trump

Merkel also spoke Thursday of the need for solidarity in Europe as it faces its current challenges, including migration, the threat of international terrorism, Britain's impending exit from the union and the change of US administration.

Commenting on the changes that Europe is set to face, including challenges related to migration, the threat of international terrorism, Brexit and the changing U.S. administration, Merkel noted, “Many things are changing in the world, including the character of the transatlantic relationship.”

She said, a partnership based on shared values and interests, "is extremely important for all of us, not only for us Europeans, and it is in this spirit that I'm going to have my conversations with Donald Trump in Washington in the weeks to come."

She added, “EU nations will have to take on more responsibility for defence and handling issues in their own backyard, including in the Balkans.”

Commenting on Brexit, she said that it should be seen as a "wake-up call" for the other 27 EU states, which should work together to improve and strengthen “as a very successful union.”

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