Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan turns a deaf ear to a European Union warning to tone down his inflammatory rhetoric against its leaders, this time lashing out at German Chancellor Angela Merkel as a “terrorist supporter.”
In a Monday interview with A-Haber television, Erdogan said “Mrs. Merkel, you are supporting terrorists,” adding that Berlin has not responded to 4,500 dossiers sent by Ankara on terror suspects, including those linked to Kurdish militants and last year’s botched coup in Turkey.
“Mrs. Merkel, why are you hiding terrorists in your country?…Why are you not doing anything?” Erdogan asked.
He also slammed Merkel for publicly supporting Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in the diplomatic dispute that erupted after the Netherlands blocked rallies by Turkish ministers aimed to garner support for an April 16 referendum on expanding Erdogan’s powers.
Merkel, in return, censured Erdogan’s accusations as “clearly absurd.”
“The chancellor has no intention of taking part in a game of provocation,” Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a brief written statement late Monday, adding “these accusations are clearly absurd.”
The dispute erupted on March 2 when German authorities canceled rallies by Turkish ministers campaigning for a ‘Yes’ vote in the referendum, infuriating Turkey.
Erdogan’s remarks came hours after the European Union called on Turkey to move toward defusing the deepening row.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn in a joint statement on Monday urged Ankara to “to refrain from excessive statements and actions that risk further exacerbating the situation.”
EU warning rejected as ‘worthless’
The Turkish Foreign Ministry, however, slammed the EU warning on Tuesday, saying it was very grave for the 28-nation bloc to stand by the Netherlands, which, it said, has violated human rights and European values.
The ministry further said the EU’s pleas for calm were of no value to Ankara.
Over the weekend, Erdogan angered the Netherlands on two occasions by accusing it of acting like the Nazis after Amsterdam barred the plane of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu from landing and prevented Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya from holding a rally in Rotterdam.
In response, Merkel pledged her “full support and solidarity” to the Dutch, saying Erdogan’s allegations were “completely unacceptable.”
On Monday, the Turkish head of state threatened the Netherlands with diplomatic sanctions, saying he would take Amsterdam’s ban on Turkish ministers’ campaign speeches to the European Court of Human Rights.
As part of the diplomatic sanctions, Ankara said it would suspend high-level diplomatic relations with the Netherlands. The sanctions also include a ban on the Dutch ambassador and diplomatic flights from the Netherlands.
Besides Germany and the Netherlands, the governments of Austria, Germany, Denmark and Switzerland have also prevented Turkish officials from campaigning in their countries, all of which have large Turkish immigrant communities.