Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff warned Wednesday that the German government reserves the right to impose entry bans on Turkish officials hoping to campaign in Germany, though he said the measure would be a "last resort."
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Peter Altmaier's comments followed days of escalating tensions between Turkey and two European Union nations, Germany and the Netherlands, over Turkish politicians' hopes to campaign there ahead of their country's constitutional referendum next month.
Turkey reacted furiously last week to some local German authorities' decisions to block appearances by Turkish ministers, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accusing Germany of "Nazi practices." In recent days, Erdogan has labeled the Netherlands as "Nazi remnants" after it prevented two Turkish ministers from holding campaign rallies.
Germany's federal government so far has said it won't impose a blanket ban, though the governor of Saarland state — which holds a regional election March 26 — said Tuesday she wants to prevent any such rallies there. It appears that none were planned.
Altmaier told the Funke newspaper group that Germany, like every other country, has the right to prevent members of foreign governments from entering. He said he couldn't remember that ever happening in Germany.
Altmaier said that, over the past 10 years, Turkish politicians' campaign appearances in Germany have been in line with German laws. He noted that the Nazi parallels so far have been drawn in Turkey, not in Germany.
But "the fact that the federal government so far hasn't exhausted its possibilities under international law is not a free pass for the future," Altmaier said.
"We will look very carefully at what is defensible and what is not," he added. "An entry ban would be the last resort. We reserve the right to do that."