Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (Photo: Presidency of Turkey, File)
Berlin (CNSNews.com) – As Germany braces for the G20 summit in Hamburg next week, the government has refused a request by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to address Turkish citizens living here, in a move that recalls tensions over controversial rallies in support of last April’s referendum in Turkey.
“We have had an official request from Turkey yesterday to tell us that Turkish President Erdogan wants to address Turkish citizens living in Germany during the G20 summit,” Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told reporters during a visit to Russia on Thursday.
He indicated the request will be rejected – that while Erdogan will be received “with honors” at the summit of the 20 leading industrial and emerging countries, “we do not think that anything going beyond this is appropriate at the current time.”
Speaking to the Handelsblatt daily later, Gabriel commented, “Ours is an open country, but we have no intention of bringing other countries’ internal political conflicts into our population.”
He added that with the G20 summit underway “we don’t have the police numbers to provide the security necessary for Mr. Erdogan to address Turks.”
Government spokesman Steffen Seibert confirmed in comments to Spiegel that Gabriel’s position reflected that of Chancellor Angela Merkel and the federal government at large.
The chairman of the Turkish Community in Germany, Gökay Sofuoglu, also backed Gabriel’s stance. Germany is home to some three million ethnic Turks.
A German high court last year ruled that the federal government has the right to refuse permission for such a public appearance.
Security for the G20 has been a high priority for German authorities, with the presence of some leaders expected to incite public protests. Aside from Erdogan, President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin are both set to attend the July 7-8 gathering, which will draw 41 delegations from countries and international organizations.
After 12 arson attacks by left wing protesters targeting German railway infrastructure in recent weeks, authorities fear these could signal larger violence during the summit. Hamburg has established temporary courtrooms and holding cells, and anticipates hundreds of arrests during the event.
The largest demonstration, titled “G20 Not Welcome Here” is expected to attract 150,000 participants alone.
“Next to Trump are Putin and Erdogan, the new authoritarian testosterone axis, this is enough reason for protest,” a German paper quoted Green Party chairman Cem Özdemir as saying on Saturday.
Regarding Erdogan in particular, authorities are concerned that a public appearance could ignite German Turks, among whom are sizable number of Kurds – a minority which is in conflict with the government in Turkey’s southeast.
Another concern surrounding Erdogan is the conduct of some of his security detachment. Germany has warned him not to bring along any of the 12 security officials who have been charged in the U.S. for assaulting protesters in Washington last month.
“I have reason to expect that these people, who have been incriminated by the American criminal justice [system] will not step onto German soil in the foreseeable future, including during the G20 summit,” foreign ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer this week.
Police president Ralf Martin Meyer confirmed that police would not accept the presence of the Turkish officials involved – “and we will keep an eye on it.”
Erdogan last visited Germany in May 2015, when he addressed supporters in Karlsruhe.
Since then, however, German politicians have become far more critical of Erdogan’s governance, in particular condemning his crackdown following a failed coup attempt in July 2016.
Turkish politicians, including Erdogan himself, were barred from speaking in Germany and other E.U. countries in the run-up to a referendum on constitutional reform in April which Erdogan narrowly won.
The move caused a war of words, with Erdogan accusing Germany of Nazi-like behavior.
The relationship between the two countries has also been burdened by recent revelations that the Turkish intelligence service is collecting information on German politicians. Several lawmakers in the Bundestag working in the interior, foreign and defense ministries were in its sights, according to a Welt report.