Turkey’s Erdoğan hits back at German counterpart during state banquet

Turkish and German presidents exchanged barbs on Friday evening during a state dinner in Berlin organised for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Deutsche Welle reported.

Erdoğan’s three-day official visit to Germany took start following years of heightened tensions between two countries that peaked following the July 2016 coup attempt and the detentions of German nationals in Turkey. The two countries have been working on mending their ties at a time when Turkey is under severe economic pressure and in the midst of a diplomatic row with the United States.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier started his address at the German presidential palace by praising the long history of relations between the two countries, including Turkey's role in accepting persecuted Jews and Germans during Nazi rule, DW said.

"Eighty years ago, Germans found refuge in Turkey — today, a worryingly large number of people from Turkey are seeking refuge here in Germany from the growing pressure on civil society,” Steinmeier said, adding that, as the president of Germany, he was concerned about German citizens and Turkish journalists, trade unionists, lawyers, intellectuals and politicians who have been imprisoned in Turkey.

The criticism from his German counterpart made Erdoğan emotional and he dodged his speech manuscript to respond to Steinmeier’s words, Frankfurter Allgemeine said

Erdoğan said that Steinmeier had "received false information" regarding the arrests that have taken place in Turkey. He also accused Germany for providing shelter to thousands of “terrorists" from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the Gülen movement, a religious group Ankara blames for orchestrating the coup attempt. 

"Should not we talk about that? Should not we say anything about that,” he said.  

Erdoğan accused Steinmeier of defending journalists who he said had acted like terrorists and without giving his name, brought the issue of Can Dündar, the former editor-in-chief of the main opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper, who has been living in Germany after being convicted in Turkey of espionage for publishing about alleged armed shipments to Syrian rebels.

However, at the end of his speech Erdoğan also said in German that the love between the people of two countries was so great that it could never be broken.