Turkey's 'war of words' with Germany escalates

Indo Asian News Service

Ankara, March 7 (IANS) The Turkish Foreign Minister on Tuesday escalated an ongoing "war of words" with Germany when he said that nobody could stop him from taking his referendum campaign to Hamburg, despite an order from German officials to cancel the event.

Germany is home to around 1.4 million eligible Turkish voters in the upcoming referendum that could see Turkey's parliamentary republic become a presidential one, enhancing the executive powers of current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Efe news reported.

"They are trying to cancel all our rallies with unprecedented pressure. It is a totally oppressive system that puts pressure on private hotel owners," Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavusoglu, told the Hurriyet daily.

"I'm going to go. Nobody can stop me," he continued.

City authorities in Hamburg, northern Germany, on Monday prohibited a meeting that was scheduled to be led by Cavusoglu.

He confirmed that the meeting was cancelled but added that it had been relocated.

The government clampdown on several Turkish referendum rallies being held on German soil combined with Ankara's detention of a Turkish-German journalist on terror charges has led to tension between the two nations.

Erdogan recently criticized the German government's actions and likened them to the Nazi regime.

The referendum to alter Turkey's Constitution in favour of the president has raised eyebrows in the west and has been lambasted as an authoritarian power grab by Erdogan's critics at home.

Ankara restructured state institutions and media outlets following the failed coup d'etat in July 2016 as well as detained thousands of people for alleged links to the Islamic organisation of exiled US-based cleric Fethullah Gülen whom Turkey holds responsible for the coup attempt.

Turkey has also accused Germany of failing to hand over Gülenists and members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Turkey will decide on the future of its executive system on April 16.