By Burcu Arik and Emin Avundukluoglu
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Sunday lashed out at Germany after Turkish ministers were barred from holding public rallies in two German cities ahead of the April 16 referendum in Turkey.
Speaking at a meeting of the Women and Democracy Foundation (KADEM) in Istanbul, Erdogan accused Germany of repeating past Nazi habits.
"They do not let our friends speak in Germany. Let them do it. Do you think that barring a Turkish minister from pronouncing a speech [in Germany] will make the votes 'No' instead of 'Yes'?" Erdogan said.
"Germany! You have nothing to do with democracy. Your recent practices are no different than the Nazi ones of the past," he added. On Thursday, the municipality of Gaggenau in southwest Germany revoked its permission for Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag's meeting, citing concerns about overcrowding. This prompted Bozdag to cancel his planned visit to Germany altogether.
Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci’s planned address on Sunday to a Turkish community in the western city of Cologne was also cancelled by local authorities over security concerns.
Erdogan also criticized the Netherlands for banning the Turkish ministers and politicians for holding public rallies.
Double standards on terrorism
In an another Istanbul rally Sunday promoting constitutional changes, Erdogan reiterated his complaints.
"I have seen that the Netherlands have made the same statement [like Germany]. Poor fellows! They do not act with their own will," he said.
"If I want, I would come [to Germany] tomorrow," he added. "If you keep me out the door, or If you prevent me to [make an] address, I will set the world on fire."
The move to ban the rallies drew strong criticism from the Turkish government and opposition parties alike.Ties between Ankara and Berlin have been strained in recent months.
Turkish leaders have criticized their German counterparts for turning a blind eye to terrorist organizations such as the PKK and FETO, which they say use Germany for their activities targeting Turkey.
Erdogan on Sunday slammed Germany and European countries for applying double standards on terrorism.
"We clearly know that you have harbored bloody terrorists who have fled from Turkey in European countries for many years," he said.
Erdogan also accused the European countries, including Germany, for tolerating members of Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO).
"I want to repeat it one more time that fighting against FETO is one of the most important, difficult, uphill and vital fights of the Turkish Republic in recent years."
Tensions between Ankara and Berlin further escalated last week after German media and politicians sharply criticized Turkey for the pre-trial detention of Die Welt’s Istanbul correspondent Deniz Yucel on charges of terror propaganda.
Among Germany’s 3 million-strong Turkish community, nearly 1.5 million of them are eligible to vote. They will cast their votes at Turkish consulates in Germany between March 27 and April 9.