Rift be­tween Tur­key, Euro­pean na­tions grows

Turk­ish pres­i­dent, an­gered that ral­lies for a ref­er­en­dum are barred, cites “Nazi” tac­tics in Ger­many.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Mike Corder

A diplo­matic rift be­tween Tur­key and key Euro­pean na­tions deep­ened Sun­day as Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan ac­cused Ger­many of “Nazi prac­tices,” days af­ter a lo­cal au­thor­ity pre­vented a Turk­ish min­is­ter from ad­dress­ing a rally.

Over at an elec­tion cam­paign event in Am­s­ter­dam, mean­while, Dutch rightwing pop­ulist Geert Wilders also re­sorted to ex­tremeright com­par­isons, call­ing Er­do­gan an “Is­lamo-fas­cist leader.”

The diplo­matic ten­sions have been ris­ing in re­cent days amid Turk­ish plans to have gov­ern­ment min­is­ters to ad­dress ral­lies in Ger­many and the Nether­lands in sup­port of an up­com­ing con­stitu- tional ref­er­en­dum that would give Er­do­gan new pow­ers.

Speak­ing in Istanbul, the Turk­ish pres­i­dent fanned the flames with a sting­ing ver­bal at­tack.

“In Ger­many, they are not al­low­ing our friends to speak. Let them do so. Do you think that by not al­low­ing them to speak the votes in Ger­many will come out ‘no’ in­stead of ‘yes?’ ” Er­do­gan asked. “Ger- many, you don’t have any­thing to do with democ­racy. Th­ese cur­rent prac­tices of yours are no dif­fer­ent than the Nazi prac­tices of the past.”

On Thurs­day, Tur­key’s jus- tice min­is­ter can­celed a meet­ing with his Ger­man coun- ter­part af­ter lo­cal au­thor­i­ties in south­west Ger­many with­drew per­mis­sion for him to use a venue to hold a rally near the French bor- der that was part of a cam­paign to get Turks in Ger­many to vote “yes” in the ref­er­en­dum.

Tur­key’s econ­omy min- is­ter, Ni­hat Zey­bekci, was due to speak at two events in western Ger­many on Sun­day. There are about 1.4 mil- lion peo­ple in Ger­many who are el­i­gi­ble to vote in the Turk­ish ref­er­en­dum.

Ju­lia Kloeckner, a deputy leader of Merkel’s Chris­tian Demo­cratic Union, told the Ger­man daily Bild that Erdo- gan’s Nazi com­par­i­son was “a new pin­na­cle of im­mod- er­a­tion.”

“Mr. Er­do­gan is re­act­ing like a stub­born child who can’t get his own way,” she told the paper.

Aus­trian Chan­cel­lor Chris- tian Kern, in an in­ter­view with the Ger­man newspa- per Welt am Son­ntag, said it’s time to pull the plug on long-stalled moves to bring Tur­key into the 28-na­tion EU.

“We shouldn’t just tem­po­rar­ily sus­pend the ac­ces­sion talks with Tur­key but end them,” Kern said. “We can’t con­tinue to ne­go­ti­ate about mem­ber­ship with a coun­try that has been steadily dis­tanc­ing it­self for years, dur­ing on­go­ing ac­cess talks, from demo­cratic stan­dards and prin­ci­ples of the rule of law.”

The Dutch gov­ern­ment is in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether it can halt a rally be­ing planned for later in the week at which Turk­ish For­eign Min­is­ter Mev­lut Cavu­soglu is re­port- edly due to speak.

Prime Min­is­ter Mark Rutte told Dutch broad­caster NOS on Satur­day that his gov­ern- ment “is look­ing at all le­gal av­enues to pre­vent such a visit.” Rutte said the pro­posed con­sti­tu­tional changes take Tur­key, an as­pi­rant Euro­pean Union mem­ber state, “in a less demo­cratic di­rec­tion.”

“We be­lieve that Dutch pub- lic space is not the place for po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns of other coun­tries,” Rutte wrote ear­lier on his Face­book page.

Kern urged “a con­certed ap­proach by the EU to pre­vent such cam­paign ap­pear­ances,” say­ing then spe­cific coun­tries like Ger­many would not come un­der pres­sure from Tur­key.

Wilders, whose Party for Free­dom is lag­ging only slightly be­hind Rutte’s VVD party in polls be­fore the Dutch March 15 elec­tion for par­lia­ment’s lower house, said he would go fur­ther if he were in power.

“I think that com­ing here to ad­vo­cate a change of the Turk­ish con­sti­tu­tion that will only strengthen the Is­lamo-fas­cist leader Er­do­gan of Tur­key more than Par­lia­ment, Turk­ish par­lia­ment, is the worst thing that could hap­pen to us,” Wilders told re­porters at a cam­paign event.

HEN­NING KAISER /DPA

A woman holds up signs against Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Er­do­gan near Ho­tel Se­nat­shotel in Cologne, Ger­many, on Sun­day. The Turk­ish min­is­ter of eco­nomic af­fairs, Ni­hat Zey­bekci, was to speak there Sun­day evening.

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