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Turkish foreign minister defiant on Germany rally, criticizes German authorities
















By Michael Hogan and Humeyra Pamuk

HAMBURG/ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey's foreign minister arrived at the Turkish consulate in Hamburg on Tuesday to address a rally for Turkish voters in Germany despite what he called shameful actions by police to force the closure of the originally planned meeting hall.

Mevlut Cavusoglu, speaking hours before flying to Hamburg, accused Germany of a systematic effort to stop meetings intended to rally a "yes" vote in a Turkish referendum next month to grant sweeping new powers to President Tayyip Erdogan.

Authorities cited safety grounds in closing the venue, as it had with three previous halls where Turkish officials had planned to address members of Germany's 1.5 million strong community of ethnic Turkish voters.

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Turks living in Germany, the Netherlands and other European countries could prove decisive for Erdogan's political future.

"I am going to Hamburg ... I will come together with our citizens tonight. Nobody can prevent this, and nobody can try to do so," he told a diplomatic reception in Istanbul. "It is unacceptable for the venue's owner to be pressured by the police and intelligence to cancel the event."

"We don't want relations to be bad with any country, including Germany. But if they approach us with hostility, we'll give the necessary response," he said, without elaborating. "These ... actions by countries we see as friends are shameful."

Erdogan told a youth convention in Ankara: "To those who don't want us in Europe, to Germany, France, Belgium, Netherlands and Austria, you should know that we have no problems because our brothers and sisters are watching us, listening to us, because we are talking to them through the language of the heart."

German officials deny any political motive for cancelling rallies. Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Berlin will continue to allow Turkish politicians to campaign in Germany for the referendum, provided German laws are respected.

Cavusoglu ‎arrived at the revised venue in Hamburg, the residence of the Turkish consulate-general. That building counts as Turkish territory and would not have to comply with German regulations.

About a hundred demonstrators were shouting anti-Erdogan slogans near the building which was cordoned off by police. Some protesters yelled: "Cavusogulu clear off!"

RACISM

The long simmering dispute between Germany and Turkey, a key NATO ally in a strategic position bordering Syria, Iraq and Iran, deepened on Sunday when Erdogan accused German officials of acting like Nazis, prompting outrage in Berlin.

Erdogan, often criticized in Germany for widespread purges, arrests and dismissals following a failed July coup, has been pressing for some time to replace Turkey's parliamentary democracy with a strong presidency. His critics fear this would abolish or weaken checks and balances already under threat.

Austria has called for a ban on all Turkish rallies in EU countries, and the Netherlands has also said it does not approve of a rally planned for Rotterdam.

Cavusoglu, taking up Erdogan's weekend remarks, said Europe now found itself in a "miserable" condition, afflicted by racism.

"It is in the hands of racist parties... We are very worried. If we don't stop the rise of such populist parties, Europe will head to a pre-World War II era."

(writing by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Gareth Jones)

 
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