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Severe traffic restrictions are expected in Berlin today as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan prepares for his first visit in three years.
The German capital has experience with this. In 2018, 4,000 police were mobilized, the entire central area was closed to cars, and snipers were deployed on rooftops.
However, during the three days in the German capital, Erdoğa called rallies, attacked Kurdish activists, and provoked protests. Today, beyond meetings with Chancellor Olaf Scholz and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, his schedule is far from packed.
The problem is the tension that the visit gives rise to in domestic politics. Chancellor Olaf Scholz will host Erdogan, but the Central Council of Jews has already warned him that it expects clear condemning comments about the Turkish head of state and that he should not be Germany’s partner.
Erdogan calls Israel a ‘terrorist state’
Five weeks after Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, killing 1,200, Erdogan called Israel a “terrorist state” and the Islamists had previously been described as a “liberation movement”. “Whoever denies Israel’s right to exist, and actively fights against it, cannot be a partner in German politics.”
Scholz, who will host Erdogan after German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, takes a diametrically opposed position, not calling for a ceasefire in Israel and saying he upholds the Jewish state’s right to defend itself. He called Erdogan’s claim that Israel is “fascist” absurd, but he has also drawn criticism at home for unconditional support for the Jewish state.
Preparations for this trip have been going on since the summer – before Hamas attacked Israel.
At the same time, it is difficult for both countries to give it up: Germany and Turkey are mutually dependent on each other economically. There are also 1.5 million people with Turkish citizenship living in Germany, and at least as many – with Turkish origin. This and other European countries are dependent on Turkey for security, especially since migration has returned to the agenda of a number of countries.
According to Bloomberg, the two will also discuss Ankara’s request to buy Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets, but at the moment this request is not expected to be accepted.
Edrogan also needs better access to the European market and visa liberalization as he tries to show progress on the EU path to millions of economically hard-pressed Turks months before local elections.
Thousands of Kurds are expected to protest the visit around noon (Kurdish activists said they don’t understand why it is needed); in the evening, Germany was supposed to play a friendly soccer match with Turkey and it was even possible that the guest could attend, but that plan was canceled.
As government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit told reporters: “This is a visit from a difficult partner.”