Erdoğan alleges no democracy or freedoms in Germany, Switzerland and Belgium

As tension between European countries and Ankara over a ban on referendum campaign rallies conducted by Turkish ministers persists, Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Friday that Germany, Switzerland and Belgium lack democracy and freedoms, the Diken news site reported on Friday.

“Is there democracy in Germany, Switzerland and Belgium? They do not have anything in the name of freedom or freedom of belief,” said Erdoğan during a public meeting in Denizli.

Strongly criticizing the European Parliament for banning the free distribution of the staunchly pro-Erdoğan Daily Sabah newspaper on its premises, Erdoğan said: “Where is the press freedom that you [Europe] used to talk about? Why did you ban it? You will pay for banning Daily Sabah in the European Parliament. You will not be able to rest at ease.”

“As long as you call Tayyip Erdoğan a ‘dictator,’ Tayyip Erdoğan will call you a ‘fascist’, a ‘Nazi’,” said Erdoğan in response to European remarks calling him a dictator.

“You know why? Let me tell you. They paint swastikas on our houses of worship in Europe. O state, where are you? Why do you allow them [to do this]? Why you do not pursue them? Many of our citizens were killed in Europe, but those cases have not yet been resolved.”

Erdoğan also said they have no intention of engaging in a fight with anybody but just want to protect the rights of Turkish citizens living in Europe.

Meanwhile, the US State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said on Thursday that Turkey and European countries should “tone down the rhetoric” amid escalating tensions that started after the cancellation of Turkish officials’ programs in the EU to campaign for an upcoming constitutional referendum in Turkey.

Speaking during a press briefing on Thursday, Toner said, “I think what we’ve said about some of the back and forth that we’ve seen over the past couple of weeks – that we want to see everyone get along and to tone down the rhetoric.”

Underlining that Washington encourages Ankara’s aspirations to integrate with the Euro-Atlantic community, Toner also added that Turkey is an important ally and friend of the US.

“ … Turkey is an ally, obviously, a strong partner, certainly, with respect to ISIL [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant], and a friend. We support Turkey’s aspirations to engage with Europe. I’m not going to speak to what is an issue between Turkey and Europe, and the EU, rather specifically. That’s for them to work out, but as much as Turkey wants to pursue that integration with the Euro-Atlantic community on an economic level, we’d encourage that,” he said.

Turkey’s relations with various European countries have recently become strained due to the cancellation of rallies planned to be conducted by Turkish ministers in order to seek the support of Turkish expatriates for a referendum in Turkey on April 16 that will expand President Erdoğan’s powers and change Turkey into an executive presidency.

Answering a question regarding US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s potential visit to Turkey at the end of March, Toner said there is “nothing to announce yet.”

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu had recently said his US counterpart would pay a visit to Turkey on March 30. (SCF with March 24, 2017

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