German and Turkish leaders on Friday aired their disagreements over the conflict in the Middle East, with Berlin affirming Israel’s right to defend itself while Recep Tayyip Erdogan once again demanded an immediate end to Israeli bombings.
Israel’s “right to exist” is “irrefutable”, declared Olaf Scholz during a press conference with the Turkish president, who recently appeared to question the legitimacy of the Jewish state.
These remarks, which Mr. Erdogan did not repeat in Berlin, shocked Germany, which elevated its existence to the rank of “reason of state” given its responsibility for the Shoah.
For his first visit to Germany since 2020, he first spoke with Head of State Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
The latter also forcefully reaffirmed the German position according to which Israel has the right “to defend itself” after the deadly attack on October 7 by Hamas, which left 1,200 dead, the vast majority civilians, according to the Israeli authorities.
“Not in the Torah” –
Erdogan acted as mediator in the first days of the conflict triggered by the Hamas massacres in Israel
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.
In Berlin, he again urged Israel to “immediately” stop its attacks which have left 12,000 dead in Gaza, mainly civilians, according to Hamas.
“Bombing hospitals or killing children is not in the Torah. You cannot do that,” he said.
Mr. Erdogan has denied any anti-Semitic connotation in his criticism of Israel. “For us, there should be no discrimination between Jews, Christians and Muslims in the region. I am the first to lead the fight against anti-Semitism in the world,” he said.
While recognizing the dramatic humanitarian situation for civilians in Gaza, Mr. Scholz stressed that Hamas was primarily responsible because it uses them “as human shields.”
“For a prospect of lasting peace”, Hamas “must no longer be able to carry out acts of aggression like that of October 7”, said the chancellor.
Despite the differences, Erdogan and Scholz showed civility, with the chancellor notably welcoming him with a big smile.
Many had feared an outburst during the press conference. Mr. Erdogan had described Israel as a “terrorist state” shortly before going to Berlin.
He also judged that the legitimacy of the State of Israel was “called into question because of its own fascism”, comments which shocked Germany.
Olaf Scholz called them “absurd” this week.
Voices, particularly from Jewish associations or the opposition, were raised to demand the postponement or cancellation of his visit, planned for several months. The chancellor invited him after his re-election in May.
– Essential contact person
If Mr. Erdogan has retained his very authoritarian line adopted since the attempted putsch against his government in 2016, his increased influence at the geopolitical level nevertheless makes him an essential interlocutor for Berlin.
In the war in Ukraine, launched on February 24, 2022 by Russia, he was notably an architect of the agreement guaranteeing the export of Ukrainian cereals via the Black Sea, before Moscow denounced it this summer.
Western powers believe it has a role to play in avoiding an escalation of the conflict in the Middle East and the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which, according to the head of German diplomacy Annalena Baerbock, makes the even “more important and more urgent” dialogue.
Germany, like the EU as a whole, also needs him to renew the pact signed in 2016 to contain the arrival of migrants, while Europe is experiencing a new wave of arrivals from Afghanistan or Syria. This is fueling – particularly in Germany – a surge of the far right in opinion polls.
The Turkish president could, for his part, discuss during talks with the chancellor, which were to continue in the evening at a dinner, the planned purchase of 40 Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft.
Great Britain and Spain are in favor and are trying to “convince” Germany, involved in its production and whose agreement is essential, the Turkish Defense Minister said on Thursday
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