Erdogan redoubles criticism of Israel during meeting with Germany's Scholz

Turkish President denies anti-Semitism claims during one-day visit to Berlin

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, right, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan address a joint press conference before talks in Berlin. AFP
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan renewed his criticism of Israel as he met German politicians during a tense one-day visit to Berlin on Friday.

The Turkish leader has repeatedly branded Israel a “terror state” and defended Gaza's rulers Hamas as “liberators” fighting for their land.

The comments have not be well received in Germany, traditionally one of Israel's strongest backers within the EU.

Mr Erdogan again condemned Israel's military invasion of Gaza as he appeared alongside Chancellor Olaf Scholz ahead of their diplomatic talks.

It comes as the death toll in Gaza climbed to 12,000, including thousands of children.

“As of now, 13,000 Palestinian children, women and elderly have been killed," Mr Erdogan said in a joint press conference. "There is almost no place named Gaza anymore, everything has been destroyed.”

The Turkish President defended himself against charges of anti-Semitism as he argued that “shooting hospitals or killing children does not exist in the Torah”.

“For us, there should be no discrimination between Jews, Christians and Muslims in the region. I have fought against anti-Semitism,” Mr Erdogan said. “I am a leader who is leading this fight.”

Mr Scholz said he and Mr Erdogan had"different views on the current conflict” but “particularly at difficult moments, we need to speak directly to each other”.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan: 'Killing children is not in the Torah'

Recep Tayyip Erdogan: 'Killing children is not in the Torah'

“Hamas's attack means that Israel must protect itself and must be able to defend itself,” he said.

“It cannot remain the case that a terror organisation that rules this region undertakes such activities from there again”.

At the same time, Mr Scholz said it was important to “do everything to keep the number of civilian victims as small as possible” and stressed that “the suffering of the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza also depresses us”.

Mr Erdogan appeared to suggest that Germany, a country where anti-Semitism is illegal because of Berlin's historic responsibilities over the Holocaust, was limited in its ability to speak freely about the Israel-Gaza war.

“I speak freely because we do not owe Israel anything. We did not go through the Holocaust,” Mr Erdogan said, suggesting Germany carried a “psychological debt”.

Mr Erdogan's trip to Germany was his first to a western country since Israel began bombarding Gaza in response to Hamas's attacks on October 7.

Earlier, he met Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at Bellevue Palace on Friday afternoon.

According to police, about 2,800 officers were deployed in the capital due to the Turkish President's visit.

Germany is also home to the biggest Turkish diaspora and a majority of Turks in the country are supporters of Mr Erdogan, including former German international footballer Mesut Ozil.

Updated: November 17, 2023, 11:51 PM