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Turkish-German politician given police protection at Munich security conference

(From L) Co-leader of the Green party Cem Ozdemir, parliamentary group co-leader of the Green party Anton Hofreiter, and parliamentary group leader of the conservative CDU/CSU faction Volker Kauder wait to be introduced to German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier during a New Year's reception at the presidential Bellevue Palace in Berlin on January 9, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / John MACDOUGALL

German Green politician Cem Özdemir was put under temporary police protection at the Feb. 16-18 Munich Security Conference after he encountered the Turkish delegation in the lobby of his hotel, Deutsche Welle reported based on local media.

The Welt am Sonntag quoted Özdemir, who is unpopular with the government in Ankara, as saying that he bumped into Turkish delegates by chance in the lobby of the hotel where both he and the delegation, led by Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, were staying.

“I could see by their expressions that they were not pleased to see me,” Özdemir said.

The newspaper reported that the delegation had complained to police after the encounter that there was obviously a “terrorist” staying in the hotel. Özdemir was then given a security detail consisting of three police officers starting Saturday morning.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu adamantly denied that Özdemir had been targeted in any way and accused the former leader of the environmental Greens party of trying to disrupt German-Turkish relations, according to Reuters.

“This is not true. It’s fabricated,” Çavuşoğlu told reporters on the sidelines of the annual conference. “This is outrageous.”

He said he had checked with Turkish security whether anyone had been identified as a possible terrorist, adding, “They said, ‘no, it’s not true’.”

Çavuşoğlu said Özdemir had played up the issue because he was “losing ground” at home, adding, “I think that’s why he did it – to be more visible, to [get] some attention.”

Özdemir, the son of Turkish immigrants to Germany, said the incident confirmed his assessment of the “character of the regime in Ankara” and gave “an indication of the kind of aggression probably practiced by this ‘unsecurity personnel’ in Turkey, if they behave like this in Germany.”

The politician has often strongly criticized Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and said Turkey could not become a member of the European Union under Erdoğan’s leadership.

During the recent failed coalition negotiations in Germany between the Greens, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and the Free Democrats (FDP), his name was floated as a possible foreign minister.

Germany’s ties with Turkey have recently become strained. The year-long imprisonment of German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel, who was released on Friday, was a major issue behind the tensions.

Berlin has also been critical of Turkey’s crackdown on dissent following a failed coup attempt in July of 2016.

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