Merkel calls for restraint in Erdoğan's visit in second interview
Berlin - Reuters
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel arrive for the weekly cabinet meeting in Berlin May 21, 2014. REUTERS/Tobias SchwarzGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan in a second newspaper interview to be restrained in a speech he is due to deliver in Cologne to almost 20,000 Turkish supporters on May 24.
Critics worry that Erdoğan could use his appearance to give a campaign speech for Turkey's presidential election in August. He has not yet said whether he will run for the Turkish presidency, but he is widely expected to do so.
"He's often made such appearances in Germany. I assume he knows how sensitive this event is, especially this time, and that he will act responsibly," Merkel said in an interview published in the German newspaper Saarbruecker Zeitung on May 23.
Erdoğan's fiery, patriotic speeches to Turkish audiences in Germany have frequently caused controversy. In 2008, he told them not to assimilate and called for Turkish-language schools.
An estimated 2 million Turkish citizens living in Germany have a right to vote in Turkish elections, and Erdoğan would want their support if he stands for president. Another 1 million people of Turkish origin have become German citizens.
Merkel said: "The German government is concerned about some developments in Turkey such as actions against demonstrators, attacks on social networks and the situation for Christians."
But she said it was nonetheless "undeniable" that Turkey had made a lot of progress economically under Erdoğan, adding that the country's relationships with minority Kurds had also improved. She praised Turkey's welcoming of Syrian refugees.
Asked if she was being deliberately cautious about Erdoğan because she wanted to have the chance to influence him, Merkel said: "The picture is not black and white but rather differentiated. Even if there are differences of opinions, we can move forward with what's important to us via dialogue."
Merkel had also stressed “a sense of responsibility and sensitivity” in Erdoğan's upcoming visit in an interview published by German daily Passau Neue Presse on May 22.