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Turkey: Erdogan Warns Europeans on Their Safety as Tensions Rise With West

Friday 24 March 2017, by siawi3

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/22/world/europe/turkey-erdogan-referendum-europe.html

By PATRICK KINGSLEY

MARCH 22, 2017

Photo: A poster in Istanbul of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, in advance of a referendum seeking to grant him more power. Credit Yasin Akgul/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

KASTAMONU, Turkey — President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey warned Europeans on Wednesday that they would no longer be able to walk safely in the street if Western politicians continued with perceived provocations against Turkish leaders.

Mr. Erdogan’s warning turned out to be awkwardly timed, coming hours before a deadly attack outside the British Parliament.

In a Twitter post written in English, Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, quickly condemned the assault in London, noting that Turkey had “suffered similar attacks many times.”

Mr. Erdogan’s comments were a response to restrictions placed on his surrogates in European countries including Germany and the Netherlands, where they have been barred from holding political rallies in support of a referendum in which Turks will decide whether to expand their president’s powers.

“If you go on behaving like that, tomorrow nowhere in the world, none of the Europeans, Westerners will be able to walk in the streets in peace, safely,” Mr. Erdogan said at a meeting in Ankara, the capital.

The outburst was his latest attempt to rally nationalist voters before the tightly contested referendum.

In Germany alone, 1.4 million residents have the right to vote in the referendum on April 16. Amid fears he might lose, Mr. Erdogan and his allies have issued near-daily diatribes against European countries, a tactic that they hope will play well among swing voters. In previous days, he has frequently accused German and Dutch politicians of Nazism.

He has also suggested that he might scrap the accord that restricted the passage of migrants through Turkey and send a new wave of migrants to Europe.

Western news organizations have been quick to report on these provocations, which are then read and condemned by European leaders — creating a feedback loop that in turn gives Mr. Erdogan more excuses to criticize Europe and to begin the cycle afresh.

The tactic appeals to some Turkish voters, including many of those who attended a rally on Wednesday in Kastamonu in northern Turkey, where Mr. Erdogan headed immediately after speaking in Ankara.

“He defends our country against the whole world,” said Hasan Birgun, 59, a retired salesman in Kastamonu. “Until Erdogan, our leaders were just standing meekly in the outside world.”

Hopes that the dispute would ease were raised on Tuesday, after Mr. Erdogan’s party canceled plans to send more lawmakers to campaign in Germany. But the president’s inflammatory comments on Wednesday suggested those hopes were premature.

In Turkey on Wednesday, the Foreign Ministry said it had summoned the Norwegian ambassador after Norway granted refuge to four Turkish asylum seekers accused by Turkey of being involved in the coup attempt in July, Reuters reported.