Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent visit to Germany brought to light deep-seated differences between the two NATO allies, especially concerning the ongoing conflict in Gaza. Erdogan, a vocal critic of Israel’s actions, labelled the country a “terror state” and criticised its Western allies, including Germany, for supporting what he referred to as military “massacres” in Gaza.
Germany’s Stance on Israel
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, during a joint news conference with Erdogan, firmly reiterated Germany’s unwavering solidarity with Israel, emphasising its right to self-defence. Despite Erdogan’s criticism, Scholz emphasised that Germany’s support for Israel is not negotiable. This exchange reflects the challenges in diplomatic relations between the two nations, with Germany asserting its stance in the face of Erdogan’s strong words. He also mentioned that, “In our country, anti-Semitism is not permitted in any way.”
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Historical Responsibilities and Diplomatic Freedom
During the visit, Erdogan invoked Germany’s historical responsibility, referring to the Holocaust, to emphasise his freedom to express his opinions. He suggested that Germany’s lack of financial indebtedness to Israel allows for more open dialogue, highlighting the complex dynamics at play in their diplomatic discourse.
Erdogan’s Critique of Israel
Erdogan did not mince words in his condemnation of Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. He criticised attacks on children and hospitals, stating that, “Shooting hospitals or killing children does not exist in the Torah, you can’t do it.” The Turkish leader emphasised the need for restraint and adherence to humanitarian principles in the midst of the conflict.
Escalating Conflict in Gaza
As Erdogan and Scholz engaged in diplomatic talks, the conflict in Gaza continued to escalate. The director general of the government media office in Gaza reported a rising death toll, exceeding 12,000 Palestinians, including 5,000 children, since the conflict began on October 7.
Challenges in Diplomatic Relations
Erdogan’s visit highlighted the challenges of maintaining diplomatic relations between Turkey and Germany amidst clear differences in their perspectives on the Gaza conflict. Germany’s recent ban on Hamas activities further emphasises the complexities of their relationship. The two leaders also discussed issues beyond the Middle East, such as the Russia-Ukraine grain deal and a migration pact between the EU and Turkey.
Economic Cooperation Amid Strained Relations
Despite the diplomatic strains, economic cooperation between Turkey and Germany has continued, reaching a record 51.6 billion euros ($56.2 billion) in 2022. The sizable Turkish diaspora in Germany, predominantly Erdogan supporters, adds another layer of complexity to their relationship.
The leaders discussed the migration pact struck in 2016 between the EU and Turkey, aiming to address the ongoing refugee crisis. Erdogan linked discussions on this pact to Turkey’s EU accession process, which has been stalled. Additionally, Turkey sought Germany’s support for talks on modernising the customs union with the EU and simplify visa access for Turkish citizens.
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Erdogan’s visit to Germany against the backdrop of the Gaza conflict highlighted the intricate interplay of historical responsibilities, diplomatic freedom, and divergent perspectives on the ongoing crisis. As both nations navigate their differences, economic ties and discussions on critical issues beyond the Middle East remain on the table, reflecting the multifaceted nature of their relationship.