Erdogan, Merkel to meet amid tensions, protests

The Kurdish community in Germany denounced on September 17, 2018 a "ban" by the Berlin authorities of a planned protest at the Brandenburg Gate on September 29, 2018 in Berlin against the visit of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (File/AFP/John Macdougall)
Updated 26 September 2018
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Erdogan, Merkel to meet amid tensions, protests

  • It will be Erdogan’s first official visit to Germany since becoming president in 2014
  • Some 10,000 people are expected to rally under the motto “Erdogan Not Welcome” in Berlin on Friday alone

FRANKFURT AM MAIN: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will pay a state visit to Germany this week as the two countries seek to rebuild ties after a series of sharp spats but the controversial trip is likely to be overshadowed by protests.
It will be Erdogan’s first official visit to Germany since becoming president in 2014, and follows a prolonged bout of tensions sparked by Berlin’s criticism of his crackdown on opponents in the wake of a failed 2016 coup.
“The main goal of this visit is to completely leave behind this period (of tensions),” Erdogan told Turkish media.
The Turkish leader will land in Berlin Thursday and hold talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel over the following two days.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will welcome him with military honors and a state dinner at Bellevue Palace on Friday — which several opposition politicians have vowed to boycott. Merkel too will be notably absent.
On Saturday, Erdogan will travel to Cologne to open one of Europe’s largest mosques, commissioned by the Turkish-controlled Ditib organization.
Commentators have been quick to point out that Erdogan’s push for a fresh start comes as the Turkish economy is struggling and relations with the United States have worsened.
Thousands of Erdogan critics have vowed to take to the streets across Germany to protest everything from Turkey’s record on human rights and press freedom to its offensive against Kurdish militia in Syria.
Some 10,000 people are expected to rally under the motto “Erdogan Not Welcome” in Berlin on Friday alone.
With no shortage of political and economic issues hanging over the visit, the shadow of football also looms large.
Turkey and Germany are locked in a bitter race to host the Euro 2024 tournament, with the winner to be announced the day Erdogan arrives.
Germany’s bid has been clouded by Turkish-origin player Mesut Ozil’s resignation from the national team over perceived racism — a move praised by Erdogan.
Relations between the two NATO countries plummeted after Turkish authorities arrested tens of thousands of people in a mass purge over the attempted putsch against Erdogan, including some who were also German nationals.
But a gradual rapprochement began after German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel was freed earlier this year, while journalist Mesale Tolu was allowed to return to Germany last month. Both still face terror-related charges in Turkey.
Merkel, whose country is home to a three-million-strong Turkish community, has repeatedly stressed the importance of good relations with Ankara, a partner she relies on to help stem the flow of migrants arriving on European shores.
But Germany’s best-selling Bild newspaper said it was too soon to roll out the red carpet for Erdogan, who just 18 months ago accused Berlin of “Nazi practices” for blocking rallies supporting him ahead of a referendum that gave him sweeping new powers.
“Now that Turkey is grappling with a currency crisis and its economy has hit rock-bottom, Erdogan wants to be our friend again,” it said in an editorial.
“This is too much pomp and ceremony for Erdogan. We’re not there yet.”
Erdogan said he would use the visit to press Germany for “more efficiency” in the fight against “terrorist groups” like the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the movement of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara blames for the coup.
Other topics on the agenda will likely be Turkey’s stalled EU membership bid and its role in the conflict in Syria.
To help smooth over the diplomatic reset, Erdogan could dangle the promise of a major project to modernize Turkey’s rail infrastructure.
Der Spiegel weekly reported that German giant Siemens was in talks to lead the potential 35-billion-euro deal ($40 billion), but it was unclear whether Berlin would help finance it.
In a sign of the contentious nature of his visit, Erdogan is not scheduled to make any big public speeches in Germany.
Die Welt reporter Yucel, who spent over a year behind Turkish bars, condemned Berlin for “inviting a criminal to a banquet.”
“The German government is betraying all those in Turkey who long for a free, democratic and secular society,” he said.


US charges Chicago man with online recruiting for Daesh

Updated 1 min 45 sec ago
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US charges Chicago man with online recruiting for Daesh

  • The 34-year-old made an initial court appearance Friday and was ordered held in federal custody
  • The naturalized US citizen is allegedly a member of Khattab Media Foundation, an online group aligned with Daesh

CHICAGO: A US citizen of Iraqi descent has been charged in Chicago with online coordination with Daesh to recruit and encourage attacks, federal authorities said Friday.
Ashraf Al-Safoo was arrested Wednesday in the Midwestern city and charged with one count of conspiracy to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization.
The 34-year-old made an initial court appearance Friday and was ordered held in federal custody.
Safoo is accused of disseminating “online propaganda promoting violence in support of (Daesh),” Assistant Attorney General John Demers said in a statement.
The naturalized US citizen is allegedly a member of Khattab Media Foundation, an online group aligned with Daesh, authorities said.
He is accused of posting pro-Daesh “videos, articles, essays and infographics across multiple social media platforms, at the direction and in coordination with” the extremist group, the Department of Justice said in a statement.
Much of the propaganda allegedly promoted violent jihad.
The government’s complaint made public Friday included posts Safoo is alleged to have written online calling on others to “roll up your sleeves” to create online content in support of Daesh.
“Participate in the war, and spread fear,” Safoo is accused of writing.