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Germany says not aware of any pre-referendum visit by Turkey's Erdogan
February 24, 2017 / 2:09 PM / 7 months ago

Germany says not aware of any pre-referendum visit by Turkey's Erdogan

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech during a symposium on presidential system in Istanbul, Turkey, February 11, 2017. Kayhan Ozer/Presidential Palace/Handout via REUTERS

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany has not been notified of any planned visit by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan ahead of an April 16 constitutional referendum, Berlin said on Friday.

Bild newspaper quoted a senior diplomat as saying Erdogan aimed to visit Germany in March to encourage an estimated 1.5 million Turkish citizens there to vote to approve strengthening the role of the presidency.

Some commentators have suggested Germany should block such a visit or at least send strong signals to Erdogan to refrain from campaigning in Germany for constitutional changes that his critics say would hand him over-riding powers that would damage democracy.

“The moment we are actually made aware of such a visit, not just through anonymous sources in big German newspapers, we will deal with it,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer told a regular news conference.

Ties between the NATO allies have been strained over the past year due to a series of disagreements including a German parliamentary resolution declaring the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces a genocide.

In January, Germany’s chief prosecutor began investigating possible spying by Turkish clerics sent to Germany from Ankara.

Schaefer said authorities should investigate media reports that Turkish consular officials in North Rhine-Westphalia had encouraged Turkish parents and teachers to spy on supporters of U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara blames for a coup attempt last July.

Germany is also considering asylum applications from 136 Turkish diplomats who fear for their freedom after thousands of officials, teachers and journalists were arrested in the wake of the failed coup, an Interior Ministry spokesman said.

Schaefer said authorities were still considering Ankara’s request that Turkish citizens residing in Germany be allowed to vote in the referendum at embassies and consulates, something which has happened for previous Turkish elections.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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