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German state of Saarland bans all political campaigning by foreign officials

Saarland's State Premier, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, said that Turkey's referendum campaigns "put at risk domestic peace." The move comes as the row between Ankara and European countries continues to escalate.

The small western German of Saarland moved on Tuesday to ban all foreign politicians from campaigning in the state.

While the move prohibits all foreign officials from holding campaign rallies, the policy immediately targets Turkish officials. Allies of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have been rallying in European cities with large Turkish expatriate populations in a bid to harness the Turkish diaspora vote ahead of a controversial referendum vote next month that seeks to expand the President's powers.

"Internal Turkish conflicts have no place in Germany," Saarland's conservative State Premier Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who faces an election of her own next month, said in a statement. "Election appearances which put at risk domestic peace in our country must be banned."

The State Premier said will she would use "all avenues" to prevent such political rallies. Reports suggest she will use a law that prohibits foreign officials from campaigning "when the peaceful coexistence of Germans and foreigners is threatened."

The debate in Germany over the appearance of Turkish government officials has escalated into Erdogan waging a war of words. Turkey's President accused several German towns of "Nazi practices" after they opted to block his ministers from campaigning on their soil.

Saarland's ban follows a similar move by the Netherlands on Saturday when Dutch officials barred Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu from promoting the controversial referendum in Rotterdam and withdrew landing permission for his flight into Holland. That incident also intensified into a major diplomatic row

Merkel hesitant over nationwide ban

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has so far resisted calls to impose a nationwide blanket ban on such campaign rallies. However, Kramp-Karrenbauer said she would not wait on Berlin or Brussels to settle on an official policy and moved to immediately implement her own ban. She said she hoped it would set a precedent "for the EU as a whole."

It is unclear whether Turkish officials had been planning on campaigning in Saarland.

dm/jm (AFP, dpa)

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