Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continued his war of words with Europe this week. His favorite words appear to be “terrorist” and “Nazi.”
Erdogan hurled both insults at Germany in recent days. Last week, he accused Germany of pursuing “Nazi policies” by refusing to allow Turkish officials to rally expatriate Turkish immigrants behind a constitutional referendum that would give Erdogan substantially increased powers. More than a million Turks are believed to be living in Europe.
In a television interview on Tuesday, Erdogan told German Chancellor Angela Merkel she was “mercilessly supporting terrorists” and doubled down on his Nazi slur.
“Nazism, we can call this Neo-nazism. A new Nazism tendency,” Erdogan said of the ban on Turkish ministers speaking at pro-Erdogan rallies in Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Germany.
During the weekend, Erdogan said the Netherlands is run by “Nazi remnants.” His rhetoric has been heard loud and clear back home. The New York Times reports that Turks gathered outside the Dutch consulate in Istanbul on Saturday night, “waving the Turkish flag, chanting, and singing the Turkish national anthem.” Someone climbed atop the roof of the consulate and replaced the Netherlands flag with the Turkish flag.
On Monday, Turkey suspended high-level diplomatic relations with the Netherlands to protest the Dutch ban on Turkish ministers speaking at rallies and also complained about the way Rotterdam police handled Turkish protests during the weekend.
“We are doing exactly what they did to us. We are not allowing planes carrying Dutch diplomats or envoys from landing in Turkey or using our airspace. Those creating this crisis are responsible for fixing it,” said Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus, chief spokesman for the Turkish government.
The reason he accused Merkel of supporting terrorism is that Germany has denied about 4,500 Turkish requests to extradite individuals it accuses of terrorism, most of them Kurds.
“Mrs. Merkel, why are you hiding terrorists in your country? Why are you not doing anything?” Erdogan charged, adding a reference to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a separatist group that the United States, European Union, and Turkey have labeled a terrorist organization.
Merkel responded to Erdogan’s critique of the Netherlands by saying Germany “completely rejects rhetorical and any other comparisons with the National Socialists made by the Turkish president.”
“These comparisons are completely misguided. They trivialize the suffering,” she said. “Particularly in the Netherlands that endured so much agony through the National Socialists, it’s just completely unacceptable.”
A Merkel spokesman responded to Erdogan’s new accusation of Germany harboring terrorists by calling his allegations “clearly absurd” and stating the chancellor “has no intention of taking part in a game of provocation.”
The dispute between Turkey and Europe could escalate into something more than a game. Thus far, the Europeans have downplayed Turkey’s diplomatic sanction against the Netherlands, but the EU Observer notes that on the same day Erdogan accused Merkel of mercilessly supporting terrorism, his EU affairs minister, Omer Celik, made ominous noises about opening the floodgate of Syrian refugees into Europe again.