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Heated rhetoric ahead of EU-Turkey showdown

Turkey has stepped up its verbal assaults on the Western world, especially Germany, ahead of high-level talks with the EU. One Turkish paper even used the well-worn Hitler comparison.

Türkei Präsident Erdogan (Reuters/A. Zemlianichenko/Pool)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continued to pour oil on a flaming diplomatic dispute on Tuesday, saying that Turkey would no longer be submissive and cede to every Western whim.

"The West wants Turkey to bring about their demands no questions asked ... I am sorry to say that that Turkey no longer exists," Erdogan said, hours before Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was due to meet with high-ranking EU officials in Brussels.

His anti-Western rhetoric was echoed in Turkish pro-government media, with one paper saying that Germany under Chancellor Angela Merkel was worse than during Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime.

"Merkel's Germany has surpassed Hitler in oppression and hatred," the paper Yeni Akit said, alleging that Turks living in the country no longer received medical treatment, were sacked arbitrarily and were unable to rent flats.

There is no evidence that the large community of Turkish people in Germany is being subjected to such treatment.

Read more: 'You belong here,' Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel tells Germany's Turks

Turkish women (picture-alliance/dpa/R. Schlesinger)

Germany has the second-largest Turkish population in the world

German media 'obsessed'

Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim Kalin also had sharp words to say about Germany and its media.

In an op-ed for the Daily Sabah, he denounced the "German media's obsession with Erdogan, which reads like the stray thoughts of the mentally disturbed rather than serious political commentary."

Read more: German media 'only marginally competent' in Turkey reporting

Turkish relations with Germany and the EU have been rapidly deteriorating since the government in Ankara began a draconian crackdown following a failed coup attempt a year ago. The EU, along with several Western countries, has vehemently criticized Turkey's actions in sacking or jailing thousands of people in the public service, the judicial system, academia and the media - under the pretext of targeting those behind the coup bid.

Read more: Cumhuriyet newspaper trial begins in Istanbul as part of Erdogan's post coup crackdown  

Turkey Cumhuriyet Journalists In Terror Trial - Istanbul (picture alliance/dpa/abaca/C. Erok)

Turkish activists have protested at the arrests of journalists from the paper Cumhuriyet

Diplomatic ties with Germany are among the worst affected, with the arrests last week of a group of human rights activists, including German national Peter Steudtner, on terror-related charges exacerbating an already tense situation.

In his remarks on Tuesday, Erdogan refused to back down on the Steudtner issue, calling him an "agent" aiming to damage Turkey.

Steudtner's arrest came after a German-Turkish journalist, Deniz Yücel, was detained in February for allegedly spying and aiding Kurdish rebels. Another journalist of Turkish origin, Mesale Tolu, who is a German national without a Turkish passport, was arrested in April.

 Mesale Tolu (picture alliance/dpa/S. Puchner)

Tolu is accused of being a member of a banned Turkish party

Fraught talks

Tuesday's talks in Brussels, which are to be attended by Cavusolglu, EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini,  EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn and EU affairs minister Omer Celik, are expected to touch on topics including EU accession, immigration, Turkey's demands for visa-free travel for its citizens, the fight against terrorism and energy and trade ties.

The meeting is likely to be further complicated by an EU-Turkey agreement signed in early 2016 that was meant to see Ankara stop the flood of migrants and refugees pouring through Turkey into Europe via Greece in return for visa-free travel for Turkish citizens and accelerated EU accession talks.

Watch video 02:19

What if the EU-Turkey migrant deal collapses?

The worsening row has, however, led to Turkey's long-standing bid for EU membership being put on ice, and there are few signs of it being rekindled in the near future.

Turkey, in its turn, has frequently used the refugee deal with the EU as a bargaining chip in bids to have its demands met.

Amnesty call

Ahead of the talks, human rights activists protested in Brussels, calling on the EU to put pressure on Ankara to release the rights workers, amid growing concern that Erdogan is aiming to establish an authoritarian state under his rule.

Amnesty International, to which two of the detained activists belong, added its voice to those demanding that the EU take firm action against Turkey.

"Turkey has to get a clear message that the EU would like to reset its relationship with Turkey and that there will be consequences for the actions they take, because right now they feel no consequences," said Amnesty International Secretary-General Salil Shetty.

Watch video 04:44

EU-Turkey tensions – Q&A with Salil Shetty, Amnesty International secretary-general

tj/msh (dpa, AFP, AP)

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