Merkel won't attend refugee centre opening in Turkey: spokesman

13th April 2016, Comments 0 comments

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has no plans to travel to Turkey this week to inaugurate a new centre for Syrian refugees, her spokesman said Wednesday, despite a previous announcement by Ankara.

The clarification by the spokesman, Steffen Seibert, about the trip announced last week by Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu comes amid soaring tensions over a vulgar satirical poem by German TV comic.

"I have been asked a half dozen times in the last days and weeks about this trip on April 16 and never confirmed this trip, this appointment, and that is still the case," Seibert told reporters.

"There will be no trip on April 16, this Saturday, to Turkey."

Davutoglu had said that Merkel would join other European leaders in opening the school and hospital in the southeastern Turkish city of Kilis on the Syrian border, which houses a massive refugee camp for Syrians who have fled their country's devastating five-year war.

The centre was built under a new agreement between Turkey and the EU, spearheaded by Merkel, which aims to stem mass migration to Europe and the drowning of migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean in rickety boats.

Despite Davutoglu's announcement, German authorities never confirmed the visit to the city, which is frequently a target of rocket fire from Syria.

Seibert did not say why Merkel did not accept the Turkish invitation.

The inauguration comes as the German government mulls a formal request by Ankara for public television satirist Jan Boehmermann to be prosecuted over a poem audaciously accusing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of paedophilia and bestiality.

Under a rarely enforced German law against insulting organs or representatives of foreign states, the federal government must give the green light for prosecutors to pursue a probe after a complaint has been received.

The case has put Merkel in the firing line from free speech defenders, who say she should have rejected the Turkish request for legal action out of hand.

Seibert reiterated Wednesday that a decision could be expected from Berlin in the coming days.

© 2016 AFP

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