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Germany's Gabriel hopes to rebuild Turkish friendship, without Nazi comparisons

Tempers were running high in Berlin as German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel met with his Turkish counterpart amid a diplomatic row. Gabriel hopes talks will "bring us step by step back to a better relationship."

After days of trading blows over Turkish politicians trying to hold campaign rallies on German soil, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Wednesday that he hoped relations between Berlin and Ankara could normalize.

"Good relations are important because things are so tense now ... returning to normality is what my Turkish colleague and I want," Gabriel told reporters.

The foreign minister said he made it clear, however, that  "there are lines that should not be crossed and one of those is the comparison with Nazi Germany."

While agreeing that "there is no benefit to having bad relations with Germany," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said shortly afterwards that Germany "must decide whether Turkey is a friend or not."

Hitting out at the German media, Cavusoglu said it needed to stop its "black propaganda" against Turkey, adding that he sees an "anti-Islamic sentiment in Germany."

Systematic antagonism

Gabriel's breakfast meeting with Cavusoglu came just a day after the Turkish foreign minister held a speech in Hamburg where he accused Germany of "systematic antagonism against Turkey."

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Cavusoglu's speech was just one of several planned rallies in the last week in which he and his allies hoped to influence around 1.4 million eligible Turkish voters in Germany ahead of a controversial referendum on April 16. German local authorities  canceled four of the rallies, however, citing safety concerns.

A "yes" vote would expand Erdogan's powers as president, with critics warning that the new presidential system would cement a one-man rule in the country.

Nazi comparisons

In a fiery speech in on Tuesday evening, Cavusoglu demanded that Germany stop lecturing Turkey on human rights and diplomacy and pointed at Europe's problems with religious minorities and crimes against humanity.

Previously, the Turkish foreign minister told the newspaper "Hürriyet" that he believed the German system was "totally repressive" when it came to suppressing the pro-Erdogan events.

"All practices resemble those of the Nazi era," he said, echoing comments made by Erdogan on Sunday in which he compared the rally cancellations to "Nazi tactics."

'German agent' Yucel in Turkish prison

The already strained relations between Germany and Turkey took a turn for the worse after German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel was detained last month over allegations of terrorism propaganda. 

Yucel, a journalist for the German newspaper "Die Welt," is the first German reporter to be detained in Turkey as part of Erdogan's wide-ranging crackdown on press freedom.

The 43-year-old, who has penned several articles critical of the Turkish government's treatment of ethnic Kurds, has been in jail since February 14th, pending his trial for alleged terrorism propaganda, with Erdogan labeling Yucel a "German agent."

Speaking to German broadcaster ZDF, Gabriel previously said he would do everything to ensure the reporter's release.

"People like him actually build bridges between our two countries," he said.

ksb/jm (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

 

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