Turkey 'planning more rallies in Germany' despite row

Fulya Ozerkan and Raziye Akkoc in Ankara
Go forth and multiply, the Turkish president told the diaspora: "You are Europe's future"

Turkey is planning more rallies in Germany ahead of a crunch referendum in April, its foreign minister said Thursday, despite an acrimonious row with Berlin after local authorities banned several campaign events.

Mevlut Cavusoglu said he had already handed a list of the planned rallies to his German counterpart Sigmar Gabriel.

"We expect Germany to solve this problem. We are planning around 30 rallies. We had informed German authorities of them all," said the minister in quotes carried by private CNN-Turk television.

Turkey and Germany have been at loggerheads this week after local authorities blocked several rallies by Turkish ministers.

On Sunday, Erdogan poured oil on the fire, telling a rally in Istanbul that the blocking of public appearances by his ministers was "not different from the Nazi practices of the past".

Chancellor Angela Merkel hit back earlier Thursday at the Turkish leader's Nazi jibe as "sad" and "depressing."

Cavusoglu stressed it was "out of the question" for Turkey to call the German government Nazi.

"This is a very sensitive issue. We are not calling the current administration Nazi," he said, clarifying that the current bans "unavoidably remind us the practices during that (Nazi) period."

Cavusoglu also said that politicians and the German media had referred to Erdogan as a "dictator."

Turkish politicians are keen to harness votes in Germany, home to a massive Turkish community, ahead of an April 16 referendum on whether to create an executive presidency in Turkey.

Aside from the recent row, ties between the NATO allies have been strained over Turkey's human rights record, and press freedom since the failed coup in July last year that sought to unseat Erdogan.

"Mrs Merkel is right, we have profound disagreements on some issues. For example the fight against terror," presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told reporters in Ankara.

Kalin accused Germany of "opening its door to those leading the 'No' campaign in the referendum including the PKK and other terror organisations," referring to Kurdish militants.

- 'Not frightened of fascists' -

The spokesman also criticised other European countries like Austria where Chancellor Christian Kern has called for a ban on Turkish politicians from politically campaigning across the EU.

"We have a very clear message: don't work in vain, the people will decide, not you," Kalin said.

A rally in Rotterdam due to be attended by Cavusoglu was cancelled Wednesday, the city's mayor said, days after Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte condemned the plans as "undesirable".

The mayor said the venue's owner in the city would no longer make it available.

Far-right MP Geert Wilders also hit back at the rally and demonstrated outside the Turkish embassy in The Hague Wednesday urging Turkish ministers to stay away.

However Cavusoglu said on Thursday he would still go to the Netherlands but had earlier said it could be after the elections there on March 15.

"No one can stop us from meeting our citizens where they live. We will not be frightened of racists, fascists like Wilders," he said during a press conference in Ankara.

Earlier the foreign minister called Wilders a "Nazi", as he asked: "What is the difference between what Wilders does in the Netherlands against foreigners and the Nazis?"