| ISTANBUL/BERLIN, March 4
ISTANBUL/BERLIN, March 4 Turkey said on Saturday
it would keep holding rallies in Germany and the Netherlands to
urge Turks living there to back a vote to boost President Tayyip
Erdogan's powers, despite opposition from authorities in both
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu criticised German and
Dutch restrictions on such gatherings as undemocratic, and said
Turkey would press on with them in the run-up to the April 16
"None of you can prevent us," he told a campaign event in
southern Turkey. "We can go anywhere we want, meet our citizens,
hold our meetings."
The defiant Turkish comments highlight the import Erdogan
places on securing the new powers, especially since a failed
military coup last July, in what could turn out to be a close
The disagreement has led to sharp exchanges between the NATO
partners. Adding to the tensions, Germany has demanded the
release of a German journalist arrested in Turkey on Monday,
while Erdogan on Friday called him a "German agent."
Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke by phone on Saturday with
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, a German government
spokesman said, without providing details of the conversation.
The two countries' foreign ministers are due to meet in Berlin
Several members of Merkel's coalition voiced concerns on
Saturday about Turkish politicians rallying support among
Germany's 1.5 million Turkish citizens.
Juergen Hardt, foreign policy spokesman for her conservative
Christian Democratic Union, told Reuters: "We don't want
marketing for the undemocratic and illegitimate Turkish
referendum on German soil."
Several events have already been blocked for security
reasons, sparking anger among Turkish leaders who accused
Germany of a double standard.
Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci has had two events
cancelled, but plans to speak at events on Sunday in Leverkusen
and Cologne in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, which has a
large Turkish population.
Critics of Erdogan fear the proposed new powers, including
freedoms to govern by executive orders, would entrench
autocratic trends. Erdogan says they are vital in tackling
Kurdish rebels, Islamist militants and other political enemies
in a land with a history of unstable coalition governments.
The Dutch government said on Friday it would inform Ankara
of its opposition to "undesirable" proposals to hold a
referendum rally in Rotterdam.
"The Netherlands told us 'You can’t campaign in our public
spaces'. What do you mean, we can't? Where is democracy... where
is freedom of expression?" Cavusoglu said.
(Reporting by Ralph Boulton, Andreas Rinke, Gernot Heller,
Reuters TV and Andrea Shalal; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)