Merkel-Yıldırım conversation ‘good’ but fails to ease tensions

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Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Despite what he called a “good and productive” phone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım continues to criticize decisions made by local municipalities to prohibit rallies hosted by Turkish ministers in German towns ahead of a referendum in April that will switch Turkey to an executive presidency and significantly expand the powers of the president.

Yıldırım has called on Berlin to reconsider the decisions, Deutsche Welle reported on Saturday.

In a statement on Friday, however, the German Foreign Ministry said the authority to allow rallies lies with local administrations and that the federal government plays no role in such matters.

Merkel has also defended the decisions made by local officials and questioned whether basic freedoms were being observed in Turkey, according to DW.

“The decision was taken by municipalities, and as a matter of principle, we apply freedom of expression in Germany,” Merkel said on Friday.

Local authorities in Germany had earlier this week canceled speeches by Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ and Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekçi amid outrage over the arrest in Turkey of Turkish-German reporter Deniz Yücel on charges of terrorism.

The ministers are seeking the votes of some 1 million Turkish expatriates in favor of passing the referendum that will radically change the system of governance in Turkey.

“This is a very unfortunate decision against democracy and freedoms,” Yıldırım said at a rally in Kirsehir, on Saturday, according to the Anadolu news agency.

“Our citizens in Germany, in the face of this attitude, will even more enthusiastically vote ‘Yes.’ They will give a lesson in democracy to the whole world,” he said to a crowd of supporters.

A meeting is scheduled for next week between Turkish Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and his German counterpart, Sigmar Gabriel, in an effort to defuse tensions between the two countries.

 

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