Amid public unease in Germany due to an upcoming visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Michael Roth, chair of the Bundestag Foreign Affairs Committee from the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), has spoken in favor of Erdoğan’s visit but described him as “antisemitic” due to his anti-Israel statements.
Roth’s comments came on Tuesday during an interview with Deutschlandfunk, a public-broadcasting radio station in Germany.
When asked about Erdoğan’s visit to Germany on Friday, which is taking place upon an invitation from German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Roth said Erdoğan is the head of state of a country that is important to Germany and Europe but that his visit will not be one where he will be received with great warmth. However, he said, he finds his visit good because it is an opportunity “to talk to each other rather than talking about each other.”
Erdoğan’s visit is taking place at a time when tensions are running high in the Middle East due to the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Israel has been striking the Palestinian enclave of Gaza Strip since Oct. 7, when Hamas militants carried out an unprecedented attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people.
Israeli’s retaliatory strikes have so far claimed the lives of more than 11,000 civilians and led to massive devastation in the enclave.
Erdoğan, who is known as one of the strongest supporters of the Palestinian cause, has accused Israel of committing war crimes in Gaza, while he described Hamas as a group of “liberators” fighting for their homeland.
When asked about Erdoğan’s anti-Israel statements and whether he could be characterized as “antisemitic,” Roth said, “Yes.”
He accused Erdoğan of trying to win points at home and distract domestic politics with his anti-Israel statements but said he is causing serious damage to Turkey.
According to Roth, Erdoğan is currently wasting his chances for better relations with the European Union, which he urgently needs due to “dramatically poor” economic conditions in the country, and he is losing his role as a mediator, as a bridge between Europe and the Middle East and also completely losing Turkey’s influence on the international stage with his anti-Israel rhetoric.
He said if Erdoğan continues with his anti-Israel and antisemitic policies, his hopes for better relations with EU, which will in turn improve the economic situation in the country, will be dashed.
Over the past several years Turkey has been suffering from a deteriorating economy, with high inflation and unemployment as well as a poor human rights record. President Erdoğan is criticized for mishandling the economy, emptying the state’s coffers and establishing one-man rule in the country.
The official annual inflation rate peaked at 85 percent in October of last year and climbed back up above 60 percent last month.
German Chancellor Scholz has vowed to stand by Israel and was the first head of government to visit the country to show solidarity following the Oct. 7 attacks.
Earlier this month Berlin banned Hamas activities and organizations linked to the group, with Germany’s interior minister calling it a “terrorist organization that aims to destroy the state of Israel.”
A survey by YouGov, a market research and data analytics firm, showed that 45 percent of the German people are against Erdoğan’s visit due to his statements in support of Hamas.