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German, Turkish leaders to meet amid Israel-Hamas war tensions

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Chancellor Olaf Scholz will meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan next week, a German official said on Friday, at a time of renewed tensions between the countries due to the Israel-Hamas war, Agence France-Presse reported.

The leaders’ talks in the German capital on Friday evening will “strongly focus on developments in the Middle East,” a government spokeswoman told a press briefing in Berlin.

Turkey’s relations with the European Union, long troubled by criticism of Ankara’s democratic standards, are under renewed strain over Erdoğan’s stance on the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

The Turkish leader has portrayed Hamas militants not as members of a terrorist group but as “liberators” or “mujahideen” fighting for their land.

He has accused Israel of committing war crimes in Gaza and recalled Turkey’s ambassador in Tel Aviv.

Hamas gunmen stormed into Israel on Oct. 7, killing more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and taking another 240 hostage.

Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel has relentlessly bombarded the Gaza Strip and sent in ground troops. More than 10,800 people in Gaza, many of them children, have been killed, according to the Palestinian territory’s Hamas-run health ministry.

Turkey is technically a candidate for eventual EU membership and, even if this seems a distant prospect, Erdoğan’s position — which differs sharply from the bloc’s — has caused unease.

It also stands in stark contrast to the position taken by Germany, the EU’s most populous member.

Scholz has vowed to stand by Israel’s side and was the first head of government to visit the country to show solidarity following the Oct. 7 attacks.

Last week Berlin banned Hamas activities and organizations linked to the group, with Germany’s interior minister calling it a “terrorist organization that aims to destroy the state of Israel.”

At Friday’s briefing spokeswoman Christiane Hoffmann acknowledged the German government “has a very different stance and classification regarding Hamas than the Turkish president” and that there were likely to be discussions on the topic.

Germany is home to the world’s biggest Turkish community overseas, and Erdoğan received strong backing from Turkish voters in the country when he won re-election in May.

Some pro-Palestinian demonstrations in Germany have descended into violence, and Hoffmann was asked whether Scholz would press Erdoğan to use his influence to encourage communities in Germany to behave moderately.

She declined to be drawn into the topic.

Other topics on the agenda will be military alliance NATO — of which Turkey and Germany are both members — and migration.

European countries are facing a fresh influx of migrants.

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