Merkel to skip official state banquet with Erdogan in Berlin

Merkel to skip official state banquet with Erdogan in Berlin

BERLIN (Rahnuma): German Chancellor Angela Merkel will not take part in the first-ever official state banquet to be hosted for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan here, German media reported on Monday.

The reports cited information from government circles confirming rumors that Merkel would not attend the event hosted by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at his official residence of Bellevue palace.

Merkel is one of several German guests to turn down the invitation. Earlier, Free Democratic Party (FDP) leader Christian Lindner said he would not come to the banquet in order not to become a “part of Erdogan propaganda.” Green party leaders Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck have also declined their invitations.

Although the Turkish leader has already visited Germany dozens of times in his official function as prime minister and president, his current visit marks the first time he has been offered full military honors, as well as a state banquet.

Merkel reportedly justified her absence by saying she already has two lengthy meetings scheduled with Erdogan during his two-day visit from Sept. 27 to 29. However, German media interpreted the decision as a further sign of lasting strains in the traditionally close relationship between Berlin and Ankara.

Before embarking on a diplomatic visit to Turkey recently, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas vowed to reiterate demands for Ankara to release several German citizens who remain imprisoned there on political grounds. Maas told the press that it was “no secret” that a spat of such arrests in the wake of a failed military coup against the Turkish president in 2016 had “cast a shadow” over German-Turkish ties.

The foreign minister, who will not be in Germany himself during Erdogan’s visit, emphasized that there could be no normalization of bilateral relations until the last seven German political prisoners in Turkey were freed.

Nevertheless, the Turkish official has expressed hopes that during meetings with representatives of leading German companies on Thursday and Friday, the country will succeed in encouraging trade with, and investment from, the eurozone’s largest economy and Turkey’s largest trading partner.

Turkey is currently in the midst of a severe currency crisis, a circumstance which has raised pressure on Erdogan to provide markets with signs of reassurance, such as an expression of continued confidence in the prospects of Turkish growth from Germany.

While Erdogan may well find that business leaders are more welcoming towards him than politicians in Germany, at least one of his vocal critics in the country announced that he would attend the state banquet in Bellevue Palace. Cem Oezdemir, a former Greens leader with Turkish roots, told the newspaper Tagesspiegel that although Erdogan did not deserve the dinner, he would still accept his invitation in order to send a signal that political opposition was a “firm and necessary part” of German democracy.

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