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20 Mar, 2017 13:56

‘Has Erdogan lost his mind?’ Turkish leader’s ‘Nazi measures’ jibe sparks fury in Berlin

Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent remarks accusing Chancellor Angela Merkel of using “Nazi measures” have apparently infuriated the German leadership, which has hit back at the Turkish leader as the war of words between Ankara and Berlin escalates.

“Nazi comparisons are unacceptable in any form,” a German government spokeswoman said earlier on Monday, as cited by Reuters. She added that it was up to Ankara to tone down its firebrand rhetoric and avert damaging relations between the two NATO allies.

Speaking to a cheering crowd of supporters on Sunday, Erdogan once again labeled certain European countries “Nazis,” before turning his sights on the German chancellor. “When we call them Nazis, they [European politicians] get uncomfortable. They rally together in solidarity. Especially Merkel,” he said.

“Merkel… She backs [the Netherlands], too. You too are practicing Nazi practices. On whom? On my Turkish brothers and sisters in Germany,” the Turkish leader added, referring to the Netherlands’ decision to ban Turkish rallies ahead of the landmark vote to expand presidential powers. Erdogan notably used an informal form of “you” in Turkish.

The remark was met with outrage in Germany, where memories of the Nazi past and the crimes of Hitler’s regime continue to be a sensitive issue.

“We are tolerant but not stupid,” German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told Passauer Neue Presse newspaper, as cited by Sueddeutsche Zeitung. “That's why I have let my Turkish counterpart know very clearly that a line has been crossed here.” 

Julia Kloeckner, vice-president of Merkel's CDU party, also reacted angrily to Erdogan's remark. “Has Mr Erdogan lost his mind?” she said, telling journalists that she was urging the EU to halt transferring “financial aid worth billions of euros” to Turkey, according to Die Zeit

“That the head of state insults the chancellor of a friendly country in such a manner is impudent,” said Martin Schulz, a former president of the European Parliament and now the main challenger to Merkel in Germany’s September general election.

READ MORE: Erdogan compares German policy of blocking rallies of Turks to Nazis acts

It is necessary to “tell Erdogan one day” that a leader of a NATO member state must not “trample practices of international diplomacy under foot,“ he was quoted as saying by Die Welt. “But he’s doing so,” Schulz said, adding that Turkey is gradually becoming an authoritarian state.

Ahead of the upcoming referendum in Turkey, which could see the president's powers broadly expanded, Turkish officials have been seeking meetings with émigré Turks living in Europe to ensure their support for a ‘yes’ vote. However, these plans did not go down well with the authorities in a number of European countries. Numerous rallies have been suspended in Germany, the Netherlands and Austria, triggering the unfolding diplomatic row between Ankara and European capitals.