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Turkey’s Erdogan, Strident on Gaza, to Visit Germany

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit Berlin next week, amid strained Turkish ties with other NATO partners. Erdogan’s stark position on the conflict in Gaza is only the latest example of discord.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz next Friday, November 17, a government spokeswoman in Berlin confirmed. 

The two leaders’ talks will “strongly focus on developments in the Middle East,” she told reporters. It will be Erdogan’s first trip to Germany in three years. 

The meeting comes at a more tense time than usual for ties with Turkey, as Erdogan has adopted the most critical stance regarding Israel of any NATO member. 

Erdogan, Scholz demonstrate ‘very different stance’ on Hamas and Israel

Erdogan has been highly critical of Israel and has spoken in support of Hamas amid Israel’s military operations in Gaza triggered by the militant group’s October 7 attacks. 

Germany, the European Union, the United States and several other countries have designated Hamas a terrorist organization.

The Turkish president has referred to Hamas as “liberators” or “mujahideen” fighting for their land. Meanwhile, he has accused Israel of crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip and has recalled Turkey’s ambassador in protest. 

On Friday, at a ceremony honoring modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Erdogan even accused Israel’s government of “fascism.” 

Germany, meanwhile, has been among the countries taking a more pro-Israeli stance on the conflict, probably due at least in part to its own 20th-century Nazi past. 

Scholz was the first head of government to visit Israel in a show of solidarity after the October 7 attacks.

Germany last week banned Hamas activities and organizations linked to the group, with Interior Minister Nancy Faeser calling it a “terrorist organization that aims to destroy the state of Israel.”

Government spokeswoman Christiane Hoffmann acknowledged on Friday that the government in Berlin “has a very different stance and classification regarding Hamas than the Turkish president” and said that talks between Scholz and Erdogan would likely touch on this topic. 

NATO silent as it seeks Erdogan approval for Sweden

NATO members have for the most part not commented on Erdogan’s repeated and often quite incendiary comments about Israel and Hamas. 

However, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg sought to downplay the importance of Erdogan’s comments in an interview with German news agency DPA on Friday. 

“It’s never easy when we have different views inside the alliance,” Stoltenberg said, but went on to assert that this “doesn’t, in a way, affect what we do or don’t do, because we are not playing a role in that specific conflict.” 

Asked whether Turkey holding up Sweden’s bid to join NATO — as it previously did Finland’s — could play any role in the lack of a response from other NATO leaders, Stoltenberg disagreed. 

“These are two very separate issues,” Stoltenberg said. 

Erdogan claimed to object to Finnish and Swedish bids to join NATO because of the countries’ track record of allowing residency to what Erdogan considers “terrorists” — often Kurds or alleged allies of Erdogan’s rival-in-exile Fethullah Gulen. 

Protests involving the burning of Korans in the two countries, caused in no small part by Turkey stalling their NATO entry bids, prompted Erdogan to double down on his position. 

Finland and Sweden reached an accord of sorts at NATO’s summit in July, but Erdogan only recently submitted a bill recommending Sweden be ratified as a new NATO member to parliament.

Key partner on security and migration

The agenda for Erdogan’s visit next week is not yet set, but one thing does seem clear: the committed football fan will not be attending Germany’s international match against Turkey next Saturday despite being in the right place at the right time. 

Germany’s DFB football federation had already said it did not anticipate Erdogan attending the match. Had he done so, Germany would likely have had to send a similarly senior government official with him, the optics of which might have proven difficult amid the fighting in Gaza and Erdogan’s comments.

Other issues expected to be discussed during the visit include migration, with Turkey likely key to EU efforts to stem arrivals at the bloc’s external borders, and the large Turkish diaspora in Germany, whose postal votes were crucial to Erdogan’s re-election earlier this year.

Source : DW

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