German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has told Turkey that Berlin and Ankara must work toward restoring frayed ties, but warned that comparisons to Nazis in any dispute are a "red line that cannot be crossed."
Speaking after talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Berlin on March 8, Gabriel said that, despite the differences on both sides, "there is no alternative to dialogue because that is the only way we can return step by step to a normal and friendly relationship."
The meeting was the first one between the two governments since the recent arrest of German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel in Turkey and a diplomatic row over Turkish campaigning in Germany for a constitutional referendum to enhance President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's powers.
Tensions over Ankara’s efforts to raise support for the referendum by Turkish voters who live in the European Union have emerged in the Netherlands as well. A planned Rotterdam rally backing the constitutional changes -- and which organizers hoped Cavusoglu would attend -- was cancelled on March 8.
Officials in Zurich, Switzerland on March 8 also asked the Swiss government to cancel a planned March 12 visit to the city, citing security concerns.
Several scheduled campaign meetings of Turkish officials with their diaspora in Germany were canceled last week, prompting Erdogan to accuse Germany of "Nazi practices." His remark immediately drew a sharp response from Chancellor Angela Merkel's office, which said the Nazi reference was "absurd and out of place."
Gabriel said he addressed the referendum and campaigning by Turkish ministers in Germany as well as Yucel's arrest, which he referred to as "wrong and inappropriate."
Yucel, a correspondent for the German daily Die Welt, was accused by Erdogan of being both a German spy and a "representative" of the outlawed Kurdish rebel group, the PKK -- a claim Germany has dismissed as "absurd." Turkey has not yet allowed any German consular access to him.
Cavusoglu, speaking separately to reporters in Berlin after the meeting, said he had told Gabriel that Turkey was "very disturbed" by the cancellation of campaigning events in Germany, and added that he had discussed with Gabriel a possible venue for a rally by Erdogan in Germany.
Cavusoglu said Germany would take all security measures for Erdogan's rally, but didn't name a location. Some 1.4 million Turks in Germany are eligible to vote in the April 16 referendum.
He said that Turkey wanted to continue as friends with Germany, and added that he had agreed with Gabriel to meet again in Turkey at a later date.
The meeting came on the same day that Germany's BfV domestic intelligence agency said there had been a significant increase in Turkish spying in Germany. No further details were provided.
Meanwhile, the planned rally in Rotterdam that Cavusoglu was expected to attend on March 8 was cancelled after the owner of the event venue declined to participate, the Dutch city’s mayor said.
Officials in the Netherlands, including Prime Minister Mark Rutte, had criticized the planned demonstration, while far-right lawmaker Geert Wilders staged a demonstration against the rally on March 8 outside the Turkish Embassy at The Hague.