(Adds comment by Turkish justice minister)
ANKARA, March 3 Turkey accused Germany on Friday
of scandalous behaviour in cancelling rallies of Turkish
citizens in two German towns due to be addressed by Turkish
ministers and said Berlin was providing "a shelter" for people
committing crimes against Turkey.
The comments by Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag, who was
scheduled to address a meeting in the southwestern town of
Gaggenau until it was cancelled on Thursday, reflected a broader
souring of relations between the two NATO allies.
"Let them look back at their history," he said in a speech.
"We see the old illnesses flaring up. They should busy
themselves with treating those illnesses."
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters Germany
must "learn how to behave" if it wanted to maintain relations.
The Gaggenau meeting would have been part of efforts to
garner support among Germany's 1.5 million Turkish citizens for
an April referendum on expanding presidential powers, perhaps
Erdogan's chief political priority.
Erdogan's relations with Germany have worsened markedly,
especially since a July attempt to topple him. He accused West
European countries of failing to condemn the putsch quickly or
strongly enough. West European countries have expressed concern
about his crackdown on coup suspects across Turkish society.
Bozdag, after the cancellation, called off a meeting with
his German counterpart and flew back to Turkey. In Ankara, the
Turkish foreign ministry summoned the German ambassador for an
explanation, ministry sources said.
The city of Cologne also blocked an event where Turkish
Economy Minister Nihat Zeybecki was to speak on Sunday amid
Authorities in Gaggenau evacuated the city hall on Friday
after receiving a bomb threat, its mayor told German television.
Asked by n-tv broadcaster if the threat was linked to the
cancellation, mayor Michael Pfeiffer said: "We presume this at
the moment, but we don't know for sure."
Turkey itself has been hit by a string of militant attacks
over the last year by Islamist militants and Kurdish rebels.
Relations were most recently tested, from the German
perspective, by the arrest of Deniz Yucel, a correspondent for
the prominent Die Welt newspaper, on Monday.
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told reporters in
Kiev that the arrest had caused grave damage to ties.
Bozag portrayed Germany as a safe haven for enemies of
Turkey, a country of great strategic importance to NATO
bordering as it does Syria, Iraq and Iran.
"Germany today has become a shelter for all those who commit
crimes against Turkey, the PKK, FETO, DHKP-C members. Those who
carried out the coup and everyone who commits crimes against
Turkey have fled there," he said.
"This is a decision going beyond the municipality. It is a
scandalous decision, contrary to diplomatic niceties."
Erdogan accuses an exiled cleric of masterminding the coup,
describing his organisation as the FETO terrorist group. Turkey
also complains that Germany and other West European countries
give succour to militant leftists and Kurdish militants.
Germany is wary of rising tensions, seeking continued
Turkish commitment to procedures preventing large movements of
refugees from Turkey to Europe.
Mayor Pfeiffer said that the decision to cancel the event in
Gaggenhau was not based on political opposition to Bozdag or the
"We have freedom of assembly here in Germany, and a right to
freedom of expression. Those are high values," Pfeiffer told
n-tv. "We are only in a position that we can ban this on
security grounds. We don't have a political role."
(Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz, Additional reporting by Andrea
Shalal, Writing by Ralph Boulton, Editing by Angus MacSwan)