Saturday, March 23, 2019
   
Text Size

Site Search powered by Ajax

Erdogan opens huge mosque in Germany amid rival rallies

Inauguration caps a three-day state visit, as supporters and critics of Turkish president take to streets of Cologne.

Thousands of rival demonstrators hit the streets of Cologne as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan opened the country's largest mosque at the end of his visit to Germany.

The inauguration on Saturday capped a controversial three-day state visit aimed at repairing frayed ties with Berlin after two years of tensions.

During his stay in Berlin, Erdogan met twice with Chancellor Angela Merkel for talks, with both leaders signalling their interest in a cautious rapprochement, but also disagreements in a wide variety of issues.

The German Chancellor stressed that "deep differences" remained on civil rights and other issues, while Erdogan blamed Germany of harbouring terrorists.

Before returning home, Erdogan travelled to the western city of Cologne where several thousand critics turned out to protest against Turkey's record on human rights, press freedom and its treatment of minority Kurds.

At one of the rallies on the bank of the Rhine river, demonstrators waved banners reading: "Erdogan not welcome".

Erdogan supporters meanwhile gathered near the Cologne Central Mosque as police cordoned off a large area around the mosque for safety reasons.

However, thousands of Erdogan supporters spilled into the side streets, hoping for a glimpse of the Turkish leader.

Many waved Turkey's red and white flag or held up pictures of Erdogan, with crowds cheerfully breaking into regular chants of the president's name or shouting "Who is the greatest? Turkey".

Soured relations

Both Cologne mayor Henriette Reker and the state's premier Armin Laschet declined to attend the mosque opening ceremony.

The snubs echoed the lukewarm welcome the Turkish leader received at a state dinner on Friday evening hosted by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, which several opposition politicians boycotted. Merkel also skipped the banquet.

Ties between the two NATO countries soured after Berlin criticised Ankara's crackdown on opponents following a failed 2016 coup, which saw tens of thousands arrested.

Tensions eased somewhat after several high-profile German-Turkish nationals were released this year, but five remain behind bars.

Merkel, whose country is home to more than three million ethnic Turks, stressed the need for continued dialogue to overcome disagreements.

But she also highlighted Germany's interest in a "stable" Turkey, which she relies on to help stem the flow of refugees to Europe.

Erdogan, seeking international allies as he spars with US President Donald Trump and a struggling lira, likewise struck a conciliatory tone.


blog comments powered by Disqus

Subscribe via RSS or Email:

Two border crossings open in divided Cyprus, first in 8 years

Read More

Ukraine rebel regions vote in polls slammed by Kiev and the West

Read More

UN chief sees 'parallels' with 1930s amid nationalism warnings

Read More

Macron urges world leaders to 'fight for peace' on WWI centenary

Read More

Erdogan and Trump meet in Paris amid Khashoggi crisis

Read More

12 killed in Sicily as death toll in Italy floods mounts

Read More

Most Read Articles

Most Read News

Donation

Thanks to all of our supporters for your generosity and your encouragement of an independent press!

Enter Amount:

Featured_Author

Login






Login reminder Forgot login?

Subscribe to MWC News Alert

Email Address

Subscribe in a reader Facebok page Twitter page

Israel pounds Gaza

India's Kerala state devastated

Capturing life under apartheid