German govt says played no role in scrapping Turkish rallies

The German government Friday denied having anything to do with municipal authorities’ decisions to block rallies by Turkish ministers to promote a referendum on expanding President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers.

“That is a decision the federal government has absolutely no influence on … because it falls under local or state jurisdiction on which we have zero influence,” said foreign ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer.

Calling for cool heads to prevail on both sides amid the latest diplomatic spat, Schaefer said: “It’s in no one’s interest … to cut off dialogue, to talk only through the media or to fall into open confrontation.”

Ulrike Demmer, a spokeswoman for Chancellor Angela Merkel, also stressed Germany is a “federal country” and that permits for rallies are issued by local authorities.

“The referendum is a domestic issue for Turkey,” she said, adding that “freedom of opinion … should be respected” in both Turkey and in Germany.

The small town of Gaggenau on Thursday withdrew an agreement to lease a hall to the Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD) for a rally, with Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag as the scheduled guest speaker.

The town of around 30,000 inhabitants said it did not have the capacity to host an event likely to see a high turnout.

Likewise, authorities in the city of Cologne said they would no longer allow the UETD to use a hall on Sunday, where Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci had been expected to make a rally speech.

They cited difficulties in guaranteeing security at such short notice.


© Agence France-Presse