BERLIN (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Germany Friday on a short visit overshadowed by the two countries’ very different stances on the war between Israel and Hamas.
Erdogan was welcomed by Germany’s largely ceremonial president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, ahead of an evening meeting with Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Scholz invited Erdogan to visit in May following his re-election.
Turkey has long been viewed as an awkward but essential partner in Germany, which is home to more than 3 million people with Turkish roots. It’s a NATO ally that also is important in efforts to control the flow of refugees and migrants to Europe, an issue on which Scholz faces intense domestic pressure, but there have been tensions in recent years over a variety of issues.
This visit is overshadowed by a growing chasm between the two countries’ stances on events following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel.
Germany is a staunch ally of Israel and has opposed calls for a cease-fire, while pushing for aid to civilians in Gaza, advocating “humanitarian pauses” and seeking to keep open channels of communication with other countries in the region to prevent the conflict from spreading.
Erdogan has taken an increasingly strident stance against Israel. On Wednesday, he called it a “terrorist state” intent on destroying Gaza along with all of its residents. He described Hamas militants as “resistance fighters” trying to protect their lands and people. Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and European Union.
Those and similar comments have appalled politicians across the spectrum in Germany. Asked earlier this week about Erdogan’s comments, Scholz didn’t mention the Turkish leader by name but said “the accusations that are being made there against Israel are absurd.”
On Wednesday, Scholz told parliament that his talks with Erdogan will include a discussion of “differing views — in this question, it is very important that there is clarity and that we make our own position very clear.”
Israel recalled its diplomats from Turkey last month after Erdogan accused Israel of committing war crimes. Turkey later also recalled its ambassador from Israel.
Another possible area of tension emerged ahead of the visit. Late Thursday, Turkish Defense Minister Yasar Guler said Turkey plans to purchase 40 Eurofighter Typhoon jets, but Germany was impeding the sale of the warplanes produced by Germany, the U.K., Spain and Italy.
Guler told members of the Turkish parliament’s defense committee that Spain and the U.K. favored selling the jets to Turkey and were now working to persuade Germany.
German officials had no immediate comment on the issue.
Suzan Fraser in Ankara contributed to this report.