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German politicians divided over possible Erdogan visit

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German politicians divided over possible Erdogan visit
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a divisive figure in Germany. Photo: DPA
10:37 CEST+02:00
Reports that Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan is planning a state visit to Berlin this autumn have sparked fierce debate within German politics.

The Turkish president is set to visit Germany this September, Bild reported on Sunday evening, citing government sources in Ankara and Berlin.

According to the newspaper, Erdogan is set to be granted the full ceremony of a state visit, including a military reception, a meeting with German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier and a state banquet.

If it were to go ahead, the visit would be Erdogan's first trip to Germany since he consolidated his role as president and pushed through constitutional reform in elections earlier this year.

The report has prompted a heated debate in Germany, where Erdogan remains a hugely divisive figure.

“Erdogan ist not the president of a normal democracy and he shouldn't be welcomed as such,” the former Green Party leader Cem Özdemir told the Funke Media Group.

Alice Weidel, leader of the far-right AfD party, said that the Turkish president should “stay at home”.

 

Repeated arrests of German citizens in Turkey - most recently last week - and the extended imprisonment of German journalist Deniz Yücel, have made Erdogan a highly unpopular figure in Germany.

High profile cases in popular culture such as the defamation charges Erdogan brought against comedian Jan Böhmermann in 2016 and the controversy surrounding footballer Mesut Özil this summer, have only deepened the ill-feeling.

Yet some politicians have welcomed the news of the prospective visit.

“Contact at the highest level is very important between countries who are NATO allies and have many mutual interests,” said Jürgen Hardt (CDU) in a statement.

“We have rolled out the red carpet for other heads of state with blood on their hands in the past,” Elmar Brok (CDU) told Bild. “If we were only ever to talk to democrats, Germany would end up being pretty alone on the world stage.”

Foreign minister Heiko Maas (SPD) agreed with Brok. “I have never been convinced by the argument that it is better to not talk at all with difficult partners,” Maas told Bild.

Erdogan addressing thousands of spectators at a speech in Berlin's Tempodrom in 2014. Photo: DPA

According to the Bild report, Erdogan is also planning to address members of the Turkish diaspora living in Germany as part of his visit.

On his last trip to Germany in 2014, Erdogan held a speech in front of thousands of spectators at the Tempodrom, a concert venue in the centre of Berlin.

Since then, many feel that the Turkish president has attempted to sow disharmony among Turkish citizens living in Germany. He has repeatedly referred to German political leaders as “Nazis”.

Former Green Party leader Özdemir, who is himself of Turkish descent, warned that “Erdogan's attempts to build Turkish nationalist and fundamentalist parallel structures in Germany should not be tolerated.”

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