Er­do­gan wraps up ill-tem­pered visit to Ger­many

Visit fails to mend fences; Cologne in lock­down as Turk­ish leader opens a mosque; visit pre­ma­ture: Merkel al­lies

The Gulf Today - - WORLD -

COLOGNE: Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Tayyip Er­do­gan wrapped up an ill-tem­pered visit to Ger­many on Satur­day with a visit to Cologne, where a se­cu­rity lock­down kept sup­port­ers and pro­test­ers away from a cer­e­mony to open the coun­try’s largest mosque.

Po­lice snipers were sta­tioned on rooftops and the area was cor­doned off af­ter the city au­thor­i­ties cancelled plans for up to 25,000 peo­ple to be al­lowed to gather out­side the mosque, built by an Is­lamic re­li­gious or­gan­i­sa­tion that has close ties to the Turk­ish state.

Ger­many had in­vited Er­do­gan for the three-day state visit in an at­tempt to mend ties hit by a crack­down on his op­po­nents fol­low­ing a failed coup in 2016, hop­ing to se­cure the re­lease of sev­eral of its cit­i­zens who re­main in de­ten­tion.

Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel said af­ter meet­ing Er­do­gan on Fri­day that “deep di­vi­sions” re­main. On Satur­day in Cologne, the Turk­ish leader sought to strike a con­cil­ia­tory note.

“In a crit­i­cal pe­riod, we have made a fruit­ful, suc­cess­ful visit to Ger­many,” he told guests at the open­ing of the Cen­tral Mosque.

“I stressed that we need to put aside our dif­fer­ences and fo­cus on our com­mon in­ter­ests.”

Yet he also called on Ger­many to crack down on Kur­dish sep­a­ratists, and com­plained that foot­ball star Me­sut Ozil had been hounded out of the Ger­man na­tional team af­ter Ger­many’s World Cup exit be­cause of his Turk­ish roots.

“This racism has to end,” said Er­do­gan.

At a ban­quet hosted by Pres­i­dent Frank Wal­ter Stein­meier on Fri­day night the Turk­ish leader, de­part­ing from his pre­pared re­marks, ac­cused Ger­many of har­bour­ing ter­ror­ists, ac­cord­ing to those present.

“Hate speech against Ger­many,” ran the head­line in Satur­day’s edi­tion of best-sell­ing daily Bild.

Se­nior Merkel al­lies said the visit had been pre­ma­ture, and ruled out pro­vid­ing any fresh eco­nomic aid to Turkey, which has suf­fered a slump in its cur­rency fol­low­ing the im­po­si­tion of trade sanc­tions by Wash­ing­ton.

“The tim­ing of this visit was wrong - it was far too early,” Nor­bert Roettgen, chair­man of par­lia­ment’s for­eign af­fairs com­mit­tee, told the Funke news­pa­per group.

“The Turk­ish-ger­man re­la­tion­ship is nei­ther bet­ter nor sim­pler af­ter this visit.”

In Cologne, a ma­jor cen­tre of the 3 mil­lion-strong Turk­ish com­mu­nity in Ger­many, a few hun­dred Er­do­gan sup­port­ers gath­ered be­hind se­cu­rity Bar­ri­ers wav­ing lags AND WEAR­ING scarves in Turkey’s red-and-white na­tional colours.

“It’s a great hon­our for us,” said sup­porter Ali Tas of Er­do­gan’s visit.

Around 1,000 pro­test­ers - in­clud­ing emi­gres and Ger­man left-wing ac­tivists - gath­ered on the op­po­site bank of the River Rhine af­ter be­ing de­nied per­mis­sion to march through the city cen­tre.

“I don’t like that the Ger­man gov­ern­ment is in ca­hoots with a head of state who locks up peo­ple, im­pris­ons jour­nal­ists and (eth­ni­cally) cleanses his own coun­try,” said a Ger­man man who gave his name as Goetz.

Re­gional chief min­is­ter Ar­min Laschet did not at­tend the mosque open­ing, cit­ing the im­por­tance of sep­a­rat­ing state and re­li­gion. Other lo­cal civic lead­ers com­plained that they were not in­vited to the event.

Er­do­gan and Laschet met ear­lier at Cologne air­port. They were to have held talks at a stately home, but the venue was switched af­ter its own­ers ob­jected.

Reuters

Tayyip Er­do­gan and his wife Emine Er­do­gan at­tend the of­fi­cial in­au­gu­ra­tion of the Cologne Cen­tral Mosque in Cologne, Ger­many, on Satur­day.

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