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15 Mar, 2017 15:20

'We protest against Nazi comparisons’: Berlin could ban Turkish politicians from Germany

Germany could ban Turkish politicians from entering the country, Angela Merkel’s chief of staff Peter Altmaier has warned, adding that an entry ban would be a “last resort” measure.

Berlin can exercise its legal prerogative to ban Turkish politicians from campaigning in Germany amid a row with Turkey over its presidential powers referendum, Altmaier said.

“We protest strongly against the Nazi comparisons and the grotesque accusations being made,” the head of the Federal Chancellery said in an interview with German newspaper Berliner Morgenpost, published on Wednesday. 

“Turkey is always keen to ensure that its honor is not violated. Germany also has honor!” the CDU politician noted.

“An entry ban would be the last resort. We reserve [this] right,” Altmaier said.

On Tuesday, Altmaier’s home state of Saarland introduced a ban on election campaigns on its soil by foreign officials. The southwestern state has become the first to introduce a ban on foreign officials holding political rallies on its territory.

“Turkey’s Internal conflicts have no place in Germany,” Saarland’s state premier, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer of the Christian Democratic Union party (CDU), said, as quoted by Die Welt.

"Electoral campaigns which endanger peace in our country should be banned,” she added.

The row between Berlin and Ankara erupted earlier this month after German local authorities cancelled several campaign events by Turkish ministers in support of the upcoming April referendum on expanding presidential powers in Turkey.

While two of the communities cited “security concerns,” another said that the agreement between the demonstration organizers and the town hall excluded any political events.

There are around 1.5 million Turkish citizens with voting rights living in Germany. In an effort to whip up support among Turkish citizens living in Europe, Ankara is sponsoring a series of rallies of Turkish citizens, campaigning for their votes in the plebiscite. 

Berlin denied any political involvement in the cancellations, saying decisions were taken exclusively by local officials. Turkish officials did not, however, accept the explanation, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan comparing the cancellations to “Nazi practices.”

“Germany, you have no relation whatsoever to democracy and you should know that your current actions are no different to those of the Nazi period,” Erdogan told a crowd at an Istanbul rally.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called on Ankara to stop using Nazi references over the cancellation of Turkish rallies in Germany.

“These comparisons of Germany with Nazism must stop… We will not allow the victims of the Nazis to be trivialized,” the chancellor said in the lower house of parliament (Bundestag) on Thursday, noting that she was saddened by a comparison that is “so out of place as to be unworthy of serious comment.”

“It cannot be justified. Nazi comparisons only lead to misery” and are “unworthy of the close ties between Germany and Turkey and of our peoples,” she said.