Merkel, Erdogan hold tense meeting

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, with Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, in Ankara, Turkey. (Prime Minister's Press Service, Pool photo via AP)
Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, with Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, in Ankara, Turkey. (Prime Minister's Press Service, Pool photo via AP)

Ankara - In a terse exchange of words, German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday urged Turkey to uphold democracy as the country heads toward a critical referendum on boosting the powers of the presidency, while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took offence at her reference to "Islamist terror," saying the words cannot be placed together.

Merkel was in Ankara for talks with Erdogan and other Turkish officials aimed at soothing relations that have been strained, among other things, by Turkish accusations that Germany does not support Turkey in its fight against terror groups. Turkey also wants Germany to extradite some 40 soldiers allegedly involved in the failed coup in July and to reject asylum requests from people linked to a movement Turkey blames for the coup.

Merkel's visit is her first to Turkey since the coup and comes as Turkey prepares to hold a referendum on whether to switch to an executive presidential system, which critics say would concentrate too many powers in Erdogan's hands and further erode the separation of powers in the country.

"I pointed out that in such a phase of deep political change, everything must be done to preserve the separation of powers, and above all freedom of opinion and the plurality of society," Merkel told reporters during a joint press statement with Erdogan.

"Opposition belongs to a democracy. We see that with one another every day in democratic states," she said.

She called for elections observers to be allowed to monitor the vote.

Erdogan rejected the notion that the presidential system he has long called for would end the separation of powers.

Reproached the German leader

"First of all, there's not an ounce of truth to this," he said. "There's a legislative organ; an executive one as well; and a judicial."

He reproached the German leader for using the phrase "Islamist terror" during their joint statement, saying the expression saddens Muslims because Islam and terror cannot coexist.

"Personally, as a Muslim, as a Muslim president, I can never accept this," Erdogan said.

Merkel responded by saying Germany makes a linguistic distinction between 'Islam' and 'Islamist.'

"I would like people in Turkey to know, in any case, that we do not just respect and value Muslims, but we want to work well together and fight this terrible terrorism together," she added.

Merkel later toured parts of Turkey's parliament, which were damaged by bombings during the coup attempt.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
Voting Booth
When planning for the Black Friday sales do you:
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Save, research and plan ahead, preparing to make the most of it?
8% - 957 votes
Wait and see what looks like a good deal on the day?
14% - 1799 votes
Have no interest in spending more money this year?
78% - 9917 votes
Brent Crude
All Share
Top 40
Financial 15
Industrial 25
Resource 10
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes morningstar logo