Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday told Turks living in Germany they should punish mainstream German parties in September's parliamentary elections.
"I am calling on all my countrymen in Germany to not make the mistake of supporting them," he said, singling out Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, the Social Democrats and the Greens as "enemies of Turkey."
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Instead he urged Turks to "support those political parties who are not enemies of Turkey," calling it a "struggle of honor."
Merkel sharply rebuked his remarks, rejecting Erdogan's "meddling" and pointing out that "German voters, including the ones with Turkish background, have a right to vote freely."
"We will not stand for any kind of interference," she said from a Friday campaign event in Herford, northwest Germany.
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel was also quick to condemn Erdogan's comments, telling the RedaktionsNetzwerk media group they amounted to an "unprecedented act of interference in the sovereignty of our country."
He accused the Turkish leader of seeking to incite people against each other, and urged voters to "show those who want to play us against each other that we will not participate in this evil game."
Relations between the two NATO allies have become increasingly strained in the wake of last year's failed coup in Turkey. One key point of contention is Ankara's jailing of German nationals - a journalist and a human rights worker - amid the thousands of people who have been arrested in a post-coup crackdown. Turkey, meanwhile, has accused Berlin of protecting suspects alleged to have played a role in the coup attempt.
"I call on them not to vote for those parties who have been engaged in such aggressive, disrespectful attitudes against Turkey, and I invite them to teach a lesson to those political parties at the ballot box," Erdogan said.
CDU leader Angela Merkel is running for a fourth term as chancellor in federal elections on September 24. Around one-third of the 3 million Turks living in Germany are eligible to cast votes.
nm/rt (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)