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Erdogan's Party Says Turkish Politicians To Stop Rallies In Germany

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan (file photo)

Turkish politicians, amid escalating tensions between Ankara and Berlin, say they will not attempt to stage any more rallies in Germany ahead of an April 16 referendum on proposed constitutional changes that would expand the powers of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Cologne office of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) said on March 21 that it had cancelled all future events aimed at rallying support for the expansion of presidential powers from some 1.2 million Turkish voters who live in Germany.

Turkey has been embroiled in a bitter diplomatic dispute with Germany and the Netherlands after both countries prevented Turkish ministers from addressing rallies of expatriate Turks, citing safety concerns.

Some German politicians allege that the AKP is trying to influence the diaspora vote not just through public rallies but by covertly pressuring and threatening Erdogan's opponents through religious and business networks.

Erdogan has accused Germany of "Nazi practices" and has said Turkey will not be intimidated by threats to block its stated goal of joining the European Union.

Volker Bouffier, vice chairman of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, said on March 21 that Erdogan had crossed a line and Turkish officials were no longer welcome in Germany.

That statement came a day after Merkel said she reserves the right to block Turkish government officials from staging political rallies on German territory

Erdogan responded on March 21 by repeating his criticism that Germany and other European countries today resemble the "fascist and cruel" aspects of pre-World War II Europe.

Meanwhile, Turkey has threatened to send 15,000 refugees to the EU.

Ankara has also warned that it could cancel a March 2016 deal to curb the number of refugees passing through Turkey on their way to the EU.

The EU needs to keep the accord in place to stem the flow of refugees into the 28-nation bloc.

More than a million refugees, mainly from Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East, have poured into the EU since 2015 after passing through Turkey and the Balkans.

German nationalistshave also been angered by Erdogan's call on March 17 for Turks who live in Europe to have at least five children in response to what he called Europe's "injustices."

That remark by Erdogan has led to renewed calls in Germany for an end to dual citizenship.

Erdogan, who survived an attempted military coup last July, has said he needs the presidency to be strengthened through constitutional changes to ensure Turkey’s stability.

Since the attempted coup, he has faced criticism from the West for cracking down on the political opposition and his perceived opponents in the judiciary, the military, media, schools, and other sectors of Turkey’s civil services.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said in an interview with Der Spiegel on March 19 that Turkey is "definitely further away from becoming a member of the European Union than ever before."

With reporting by Reuters, AP, dpa, AFP, and Der Spiegel
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