Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan will not be allowed to speak to his German fans during the G-20 summit. Erdogan, ever the uncompromising agitator, did not take long to verbally retaliate, expressing his disregard for the German government and Chancellor Merkel in a most recent interview.
In the run-up to the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Erdogan has yet adopted a harsher tone against Germany, demanding the right to speak to his supporters in the Federal Republic. “Germany is committing suicide,” Erdogan said in an interview published on Wednesday in the weekly newspaper “Die Zeit” in response to the “No” from the federal government to such an appearance. “Germany needs to correct this mistake,” he continued.
In the interview, Erdogan also accused Germany of supporting terrorism, referring to the German refusal of Turkish demands to extradite followers of the Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, the alleged mastermind of the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey. “I asked Mrs. Merkel to extradite them, why they are not given back to us?”, commented Erdogan. “As long as Germany does not meet our demands, Turkey will regard it as a country that harbours terrorists.”
No hope for Deniz Yücel
The Turkish government blames the Gülen movement for the failed coup attempt in Turkey. According to information from the German intelligence service BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst), however, there is no evidence to support this claim.
Erdogan also rejected the German demands for the release of the German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel, who was arrested on dubious terrorist charges in February. He further criticized Chancellor Merkel for demanding the journalist’s release expressing his astonishment about this request “The fact that Mrs. Merkel put the release of a suspected terrorist on the agenda was also very, very strange to me,” he told the “Zeit”.
The Turkish president pointed out that for him, every journalist who interviews a terrorist or someone accused of terrorism, is also a supporter of terrorism. Journalists who engage in said activities are guilty of “facilitating terrorist propaganda”, Erdogan said. This is also what Yücel is being accused of in Turkey.
Despite his criticism, Erdogan insisted that German-Turkish relations are important to him: “We need each other. We have to hold on to that,” he said. He also pointed out that he has no “personal problem with Chancellor Merkel”, even if his relations with the previous government of Gerhard Schröder (SPD), were “really very different”, something he hopes to get back to.
The German government announced on Wednesday that Merkel is expected to meet with Erdogan on Thursday for a bilateral discussion in the run-up to the G20 summit. The desire to do so had been expressed by the Turkish side, said government spokesman Steffen Seibert. The summit itself takes place on Friday and Saturday in Hamburg. Subsequently, Erdogan wanted to deliver a speech in a German city in front of his supporters. Berlin had rejected this on the grounds that it would currently not be appropriate in view of the ongoing conflict with Turkey.