March 22, 2017 / 7:37 AM / in 7 months

Turkish officials are not campaigning in Europe, deputy PM says

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish government officials are still participating in events for expatriate Turks across Europe but are not campaigning for an April 16 referendum, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said on Wednesday.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, flanked by Prime Minister Binali Yildirim (2nd L), deputy prime ministers Mehmet Simsek (L), Numan Kurtulmus (R) and Nurettin Canikli (2nd R), chairs a cabinet meeting at the presidential palace in Ankara, Turkey, July 20, 2016. Kayhan Ozer/Presidential Palace/Handout via REUTERS

Turkey has been embroiled in a row with Germany and the Netherlands over campaign appearances by Turkish officials seeking to drum up support for the referendum on boosting the powers of President Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkey has accused its European allies of using what it has likened to “Nazi methods” by banning Turkish ministers from addressing rallies of Turks in Europe. The comments have led to a sharp deterioration in ties.

“Our colleagues are carrying out some meetings and talks in Europe, but we are not campaigning,” Kurtulmus told a roundtable with journalists in Ankara.

The Union of European Turkish Democrats, which organizes events in Europe, said on Tuesday that Turkish leaders would no longer hold campaign rallies in Germany after an ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel said they were not welcome.

Germany, which has banned rallies on security grounds, has been angered by the Nazi comparisons and Merkel has demanded that Ankara halt the rhetoric. Erdogan, however, has repeated the message in speech after speech.

Kurtulmus, the Turkish government’s chief spokesman, also reiterated the comments, saying the “footsteps of neo-Nazism and extreme racism” could be heard in Europe.

He said the row with European countries had helped Turks in Europe better understand the constitutional changes proposed in the referendum.

German media have reported that Erdogan planned to visit Germany this month to rally support, but Berlin said it had not received a formal request for such a visit.

Reporting by Ece Toksabay and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Nick Tattersall

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