Angela Merkel has rejected the Turkish president’s accusation of “Nazi practices” among German officials, days after authorities prevented a Turkish minister from addressing a rally.
Chancellor Merkel said in Berlin: “One cannot seriously comment on such misplaced statements.”
Diplomatic tensions have been rising in recent days amid Turkish plans for rallies in Germany and the Netherlands in support of a national referendum on constitutional reform which would give Recep Tayyip Erdogan more powers.
The Turkish president’s remarks follow a decision last week by local authorities in south-west Germany to withdraw permission for Turkey’s justice minister Bekir Bozdag to hold a rally near the French border as part of a campaign to encourage Turks in Germany to vote “yes” in an upcoming referendum on constitutional reform.
Responding to that, Mr Erdogan said: “Germany – you don’t have anything to do with democracy. These current practices of yours are no different than the Nazi practices of the past.”
Mrs Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said earlier that the German government “strongly rejected” that view, adding that such comparisons downplay the crimes of the Nazis.
Mr Seibert noted that there are strong social, economic and military ties between Germany and Turkey, but acknowledged that there are “far-reaching differences of opinion” between Berlin and Ankara at the moment.
He also dismissed any notion that the federal government was involved in the decision to cancel events with Turkish officials, saying it was up to local officials to decide whether they could guarantee the necessary security.
Other European nations with significant Turkish immigrant communities have also expressed their opinions on the issue.
“Our Austrian solution should be clear: we will not accept any campaign appearances by Turkish politicians in Austria,” Austrian foreign minister Sebastian Kurz said, as he arrived at a meeting of European Union counterparts in Brussels.
He added that “we don’t want campaigns from other states to be brought to Austria and conflicts from other countries imported … that is always damaging for integration”.
However, German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel sounded sceptical about calls from some other European Union ministers to consider EU-wide rules for campaign appearances by foreign politicians, pointing out that every country had its own opinion on the topic.
“I think the main thing is that everyone uses the possibilities they have to ensure that we get back to a somewhat normal relationship,” he said.
Luxembourg foreign minister Jean Asselborn said that “normally you would have to think that democracy is strong enough to cope with this”.
The strife comes at a time when the European Union is relying on a migrant deal with Turkey which has significantly cut down the number of migrants crossing into Europe.
However, Mr Erdogan has several times threatened to quit the deal when expressing anger over European countries.
Germany also has reconnaissance aircraft deployed at a Nato base in Turkey as part of the alliance’s fight against the Islamic State group.