Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan exchanged barbs with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz over the war between Israel and Hamas during a tense news conference Friday evening, at one point suggesting that Germany would not criticize Israel because of the Holocaust.
“Since we are here in a kind of psychology of guilt, we cannot judge things that way, but we owe no debt to Israel. If that were the case, we might not be able to speak as easily. We have also not retraced the history of the Holocaust,” the Turkish president said through an official German translator.
Erdoğan, who made a hoped-for difficult visit to Berlin, used the joint press conference with Scholz to harshly criticize Israel for its daily airstrikes and ground operations in the densely populated Gaza Strip, which have killed more than 11,500 Palestinians, including more than 4,500 children, according to to separate the accounts of the Palestinian Authority and the media office of the Hamas government in Gaza. Israel launched the operation as part of the war between Israel and Hamas after Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people.
“There is almost nowhere left to call Gaza. Everything has been razed,” he said, suggesting Israel was deliberately hitting hospitals, mosques and children.
Erdoğan refrained from repeating some of his most incendiary recent remarks, such as calling Israel a “terrorist state” and accusing it of adhering to “fascism.” Instead, he expressed his desire to help end the war in the Middle East, saying it was necessary to “save the region from this difficult situation, from this fire.”
Scholz also sought to ease tensions, telling the Turkish leader that “it’s no secret that we have very different views on the conflict – that’s why our conversations are important.” Especially in difficult times, we need to talk to each other directly.
Yet after Erdoğan expressed his criticism of the Israeli military intervention, the chancellor resisted and stressed that “Israel must be able to protect and defend itself” after the “terrible and brutal attack perpetrated by the Hamas.”
Scholz acknowledged that Israel must “seize every opportunity to reduce civilian casualties and keep that in mind in everything it does.” He also approved humanitarian pauses to allow the release of hostages or the provision of humanitarian aid – while stressing that this “does not change the fact that it is necessary to make possible Israel’s self-defense and not not call on him to intervene.” question.”
Erdoğan added that his country had a moral obligation to criticize Israel’s actions: “If we don’t raise our voices, if we don’t do anything, how are we going to pay the price of history when we look in back ?
Asked about a possible German blockade of the sale of 40 Eurofighter jets to Turkey, Erdoğan adopted a defiant tone – saying “there are many countries that manufacture fighter jets, not just Germany” – to then attack the journalist who had questioned Scholz about it. a possible export ban.
“As representatives of the press, you should not threaten us with this,” Erdoğan said. “Ask us conscientious, humane questions to which we can then give appropriate answers. »
Scholz did not answer whether he would ban arms exports to Turkey from the Eurofighter, jointly developed by Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Italy.