Chancellor Olaf Scholz welcomes Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday for a highly controversial visit to Germany after the Turkish president’s diatribes against Israel, which he accused of acting like a “terrorist” state in its war against Hamas.
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Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s first visit to Germany since 2020 promises to be sensitive. Chancellor Olaf Scholz welcomes the Turkish president on Friday, November 17, for a highly controversial visit after his diatribes against Israel – which he accused of acting like a “terrorist” state in its war against Hamas.
The leader must land “around noon” at Berlin airport then meet his counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier before going to the chancellery for a discussion with Olaf Scholz followed by a dinner, after which he must return in Turkey. A “meeting with the press” of the two leaders is planned, before their interview.
In a country which has elevated the existence of the Hebrew State to the rank of “reason of state” given its responsibility for the Shoah, receiving a leader who, a week ago, appeared to call into question the “reason of state” legitimacy” of Israel is a balancing act.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan posed as a potential mediator in the first days of the war between Israel and Hamas after the deadly attack on October 7. But he then took up the cause of the Islamist movement during the massive bombings launched in response by the Israeli army against the Gaza Strip.
Pressure to cancel visit
Two days before his visit to Berlin, during a speech to Turkish MPs, he described Israel as a “terrorist state” and accused the United States and its Western allies of “openly supporting the massacres” in Gaza. A week ago, he judged that the very legitimacy of the State of Israel was “called into question because of its own fascism”.
These comments shocked Germany. Olaf Scholz on Tuesday called them “absurd” and defended the “democratic state” of Israel against the “terrorist organization” Hamas. Voices, particularly from Jewish associations, were raised to demand the pure and simple cancellation of his visit, planned for several months. The chancellor invited him after his re-election in May.
The conservative opposition considered the time inappropriate for a visit, as did the liberal FDP party, a member of the government coalition with the social democrats of the SPD and the Greens. Despite pressure, the government never considered canceling.
Diplomacy requires sometimes having to discuss with “difficult partners” with whom “we must explain ourselves”, justified the Chancellor’s spokesperson, Steffen Hebestreit, recognizing that the discussions promised to be “complicated”.
An essential and influential interlocutor
Germany “has no interest in quarreling with (him) while Berlin and Ankara have recently become closer” after a period of high tension following the repression in Turkey after the 2016 coup, Der also underlines. Spiegel.
Firstly because Europe’s largest economy is home to a large Turkish diaspora of some 2.9 million people, including 1.5 million voters who mostly support Erdogan.
Then the country – and the EU as a whole – needs him to renew the pact signed in 2016 to contain the arrival of migrants, while the Old Continent is experiencing a new wave of arrivals from Afghanistan or Syria which is fueling, particularly in Germany, a surge of the far right in opinion polls. According to this agreement, Turkey retains migrants, mainly Syrians, on its soil, in return for a significant financial contribution.
If the Turkish president has retained his authoritarian line, his increased influence at the geopolitical level generally makes him an essential interlocutor for Berlin. In the Russian war in Ukraine launched in February 2022, he was notably an architect of the agreement guaranteeing the export of Ukrainian cereals via the Black Sea, before Moscow denounced it this summer.
Today, Western powers also see a role for it to play in avoiding an escalation of the conflict in the Middle East, which, according to the head of German diplomacy Annalena Baerbock, makes dialogue even “more important and more urgent”.
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