Erdogan cancels meeting with German chancellor

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pulled out of a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz scheduled for January 27 in Berlin, RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland (RND) reports.

The announcement was made only days after Erdogan cancelled a planned meeting with Sweden’s Prime Minister, Ulf Kristersson.

According to a source close to Erdogan’s party, AKP, the decision was made last-minute, as both sides were unable to agree to a set time and topics of discussion for the meeting.

RND reports that Scholz’s office wanted to publically condemn statements made by an AKP MP at a Turkish cultural center in the German city of Neuss on January 13.

During a campaign rally for the Turkish general and presidential elections in May, Mustafa Acikgoz, a member of Erdogan’s party, had stated that the Kurdish and Gulenist opposition to the Turkish president had “no right to live” and would be “annihilated”.

The statements made at the cultural center – which has strong ties with the Turkish far-right Grey Wolves group – were denounced as “hate speech” by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The episode is especially contentious as the German government has banned political campaign rallies for non-EU government officials. The decision was made as a result of controversial appearances by AKP politicians in Germany in the run-up for the 2017 presidential referendum in Turkey.

On January 16, Germany’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs reminded Ankara that any campaign rallies in their country needs to be approved by the government in Berlin. The AKP has said it will abide by the ruling as long as it is also enforced on opposition parties.

Campaign rallies in Germany are important for Turkish politicians as the country is home to almost 1.5 million Turkish citizens. If Germany were its own electoral district, it would be Turkey’s fifth-largest, says one analyst.

For the AKP, Turkish voters in Germany are vital. During the 2015 general elections in Turkey, 53% of Germany-based Turks voted for the AKP, when only 41% of the general electorate did. During the 2018 presidential elections, 65% of the diaspora voted for Erdogan. Overall, the president received 52% of all votes.

At the end of 2022, AKP lobby groups admitted to having hosted more than 1.000 events over the past one and a half years in mosques and cultural centers across Europe.

As the AKP falls behind in polls for the upcoming May elections, it will attempt to gather votes wherever it can.

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