Awkward allies: Gaza overshadows Erdogan’s Germany visit. They have had contradictory attitudes toward Moscow since the invasion of Ukraine. Still, when Germany and Turkey’s leaders meet in Berlin, they have tremendous economic and electoral motivations to talk to one another. They have competing opinions on Israel’s battle with Hamas, and they have conflicting attitudes about Israel’s war with Hamas.
This will be Tayyip Erdogan’s first trip to Germany since 2020, and it will take place just before municipal elections in Turkey, in which he hopes to regain control of the cities of Ankara and Istanbul. The possibility of visa liberalization and improved access to European Union (EU) markets would benefit voters currently dealing with high inflation and an economic crisis.
When Erdogan lands in a Berlin that has been highly secured for his arrival later on Friday, one of the most important topics of discussion will be his demand that Scholz agree to Turkey’s desire to purchase 40 Eurofighter Typhoon jets. Through Airbus, Germany is a consortium member responsible for its construction.
For Scholz, who heads a turbulent three-way coalition grappling with a court finding that blew a 60-billion-euro hole in his budget and arguing over the economy and growing immigration, Ankara’s involvement in preventing migration to the EU makes it a vital partner. Scholz is also dealing with a court ruling that blew a hole in his budget—60 billion euros more than he had anticipated.
Scholz made a point of avoiding explicitly responding to Erdogan’s emphatic denunciation of Israel’s war against Hamas, in which many thousands of Palestinians have been slain, as an indication of the significance of the visit. He made great efforts to avoid doing so.
After Erdogan referred to Hamas as a “liberation organization” on Wednesday, after Hamas was responsible for the deaths of over 1,200 people in attacks on Israel on October 7, Scholz rebuffed several requests to criticize Erdogan, stating only in general terms that “the charges being brought against Israel are absurd.”
In light of the vehement condemnation that far more subdued accusations of Israel typically generate in Germany, which has traditionally been one of Israel’s closest supporters, the response was relatively modest.
However, Erdogan doubled down on his stance on Wednesday, calling Israel a “terror state” that receives “unlimited support” from the West. He also said it may be hard to manage all the fallout from the Gaza conflict during his trip.
Germany has voiced its strong support for Israel while at the same time asking attention to be paid to reducing the toll the conflict is taking on Gaza’s civilian population.
NOT COMPLETING THE MATCH
Large sections of central Berlin have been placed under police lockdown, and demonstrations are no longer permitted in the region. The preliminary preparations for Erdogan’s visit began throughout the summer before the beginning of the battle in Gaza.
The visit also occurred a day after a panel in the Turkish parliament in charge of international affairs postponed a vote on Sweden’s application to join NATO. This postponement puts off the process of expanding the Western alliance after an 18-month wait during which Ankara wanted concessions from Stockholm about issues connected to terrorism.
The EU’s arrangement with Turkey in 2016 to pay Turkey to house refugees in exchange for a managed resettlement program did much to stop record flows to the bloc. Still, recriminations between Greece and Turkey have placed it under pressure, and growing numbers of migrants are fueling the far-right throughout Europe. The EU’s deal with Turkey in 2016 to pay Turkey to host refugees in exchange for a managed resettlement program did much to stop record flows to the bloc.
Erdogan, who recently referred to Germany to reporters as “Europe’s most powerful country,” may seek to secure Scholz’s backing to resume stalled discussions on modernizing Turkey’s customs union with the EU. Still, significant reforms will not happen until a substantial amount of time after the elections in March.
Despite the efforts made by both parties, Gaza has already had an effect. Erdogan was planning to extend his visit by another day, which would have enabled him and Scholz to watch the soccer match scheduled between the two nations on Saturday.
Such meetings are always risky in Germany, where there are over three million individuals with Turkish ancestry, but the current level of danger was deemed unacceptable.
“There was a fear that there would be anti-Israel chants,” said Aydin Yasar, a Turkey expert at the German think tank SWP. “There was a fear that there would be anti-Israel chants.” It’s not very probable that Scholz will want to see it with him. That could have been a wonderful gesture at other times, but this is not the right moment.