Turkish FM travels to Germany amid crisis
AA photoForeign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has vowed to follow through on a plan to go to Germany for a public rally even though local officials there have withdrawn previous authorization to appear at public demonstrations amid a continuing spat over human rights and free speech.
Çavuşoğlu was scheduled to hold a rally with Turkish citizens in Hamburg late on March 7 to demand a “yes” vote in the April 16 referendum. He is also expected to meet his German counterpart, Sigmar Gabriel, and attend a tourism fair in Berlin on March 8.
However, permission for the rally venues in Hamburg was canceled twice, forcing Turkish authorities to switch the location for the rally to the Turkish consular residence in Hamburg.
Çavuşoğlu and Gabriel are expected to discuss the referendum campaign tension with Germany, and the situation of German-Turkish national and Die Welt journalist Deniz Yücel, who is under arrest in Turkey. The two ministers will discuss how to coordinate Turkish politicians’ rallies in Germany during the election campaign period, diplomatic sources told the Hürriyet Daily News.
“There are all kinds of pressure,” Çavuşoğlu told daily Hürriyet. “They try to cancel all our programs by putting pressure on them in an unprecedented way. It is an entirely repressive system. In Hamburg, they attempted to cancel the registration of the wedding hall. But I’ll go. Nobody can stop me.”
Private property owners, hotels and wedding halls have been forced to cancel their contracts with Turkish minister because they are under pressure, Çavuşoğlu claimed.
He also echoed President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s comparison of the measures to the “Nazi era,” suggesting that German authorities were applying pressure for a “no” vote in the upcoming referendum.
“We will respond to this. We will evaluate the steps to be taken,” Çavuşoğlu said, also criticizing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s statements that his planned visit to the Netherlands was not welcome because it would work in favor of the far-right politician Geert Wilders.
“If the Dutch foreign minister had called me and explained the situation, I could have been tolerant,” he said, slamming messages given through Twitter and Facebook accounts.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım expressed his hope for a breakthrough in the ongoing crisis with Germany, revealing that future arrangements for political meetings would be carried out by the foreign ministries of the two sides.
Yıldırım said he expressed unease in a phone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and that they agreed that the foreign ministries would coordinate such events beforehand to avoid similar problems.
“We clearly expressed Turkey’s concerns on the issue. Democracy means freedom, democracy means sharing ideas without being subject to restrictions,” he added.
“If Germany does this [bans rallies], it makes what they say to Turkey about democracy meaningless,” he said.
The closing of Hamburg’s Plaza Event Center to Cavuşoğlu is the worst stage of a “bad theater play” so far, Mustafa Yeneroğlu, an AKP member of parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said in a written statement on March. 7. Immediately beforehand, a hotel reservation for Çavuşoğlu was canceled without any reason, but the cancelation was withdrawn after the Turkish Foreign Ministry intervened, he said.
Relations between Turkey and Germany plunged to a new low last week after local German authorities canceled rallies by Turkey’s justice and economy ministers, who were scheduled to meet members of Germany’s 3 million-strong Turkish community to campaign in favor of constitutional changes to be voted on next month.
The cancelations came amid fury in Germany at the detention and arrest of Yücel, with a number of protests being held in Germany and Austria to support the jailed journalist.
With some 1.4 million Turks in Germany holding the right to vote in Turkish elections, it is not uncommon to see politicians traveling from Ankara to try to sway voters. Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci made a campaign appearance in Cologne on March 5.