Merkel dismisses Ankara's German travel warning

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Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday dismissed a warning from the Turkish government against travel to Germany during its election season, stressing her country's commitment to "freedom of opinion and the rule of law".

"I want to say very clearly here: any Turkish citizen can travel here. No journalist will be imprisoned here," Merkel told a rally in Delbrueck, western Germany according to news agency DPA.

"Freedom of opinion and the rule of law prevail here. And we're proud of that," she added.

Ties between Berlin and Ankara have plummeted since last year's attempted overthrow of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Germany's strong criticism of an ensuing crackdown in Turkey which has seen more than 50,000 people arrested.

Relations further deteriorated after the detention of several German citizens including Deniz Yucel, a correspondent for Die Welt newspaper.

Yucel "is sitting in prison completely without justification, just like 11 other Germans," Merkel said Sunday.

In July, Germany had updated foreign ministry travel advice to warn citizens that they could face arrest if they travel to Turkey, prompting an immediate angry response from Ankara.

In a tit-for-tat update to its own travel guidance, Turkey on Saturday warned citizens living in or travelling to Germany "to be cautious, taking into account the situation in Germany where they could risk xenophobic or racist treatment".

Merkel's response to the warning came on the heels of a more combative approach from her top aide.

"Turkey's travel warning against Germany is a bad joke!", Peter Altmaier, head of Merkel's chancellery office, wrote on Twitter earlier Sunday.

"Imprisonment without charge for many Germans is unjust! Nazi comparisons offend our honour!" he added.

Turkish politicians have not skimped on references to Germany's grim past in attacks on Berlin as the feud has dragged out.

Erdogan himself decried "Nazism" last week, after an election debate in which Merkel and Social Democratic rival Martin Schulz both endorsed ending Turkey's EU accession talks.

"The government in Ankara is losing its sense of proportion," Schulz told news website Spiegel Online Sunday.

"Germany is not a country that can accept every single humiliation from Turkey."


© 2017 AFP

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