Germany is unable to hold Israel to account over its war on Hamas owing to Holocaust guilt, Turkey’s president suggested on Friday during a tense meeting with Olaf Scholz.
Speaking alongside the German chancellor at a press conference in Berlin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he was able to speak freely about the ongoing conflict – unlike Berlin’s leaders.
“I am talking openly because we do not owe [anything] to Israel … those who are indebted to Israel are not able to talk comfortably,” he said in Turkish via a translator.
“We do not have the problem of the Holocaust … we did not have such a situation.”
Alongside a visibly uncomfortable Mr Scholz, the Turkish president also lashed out at Israel over the heavy civilian death toll in Gaza.
“Shooting hospitals or killing children does not exist in the Torah, you can’t do it,” he said, referring to Israel’s ferocious bombardment of the territory.
The Turkish leader’s visit to Germany has been tense as Mr Scholz, in stark contrast with Mr Erdogan, is a staunch supporter of Israel in the ongoing war on Hamas.
There had been concerns that during their Friday evening press conference, Mr Erdogan might repeat his recent claims that Israel was a “fascist” state.
Mr Erdogan stopped short of repeating those remarks, which would have caused major embarrassment for the German chancellor.
Instead, he claimed he was leading a fight against anti-Semitism, addressing accusations that his criticism of Israel has at times been discriminatory.
“For us, there should be no discrimination between Jews, Christians and Muslims in the region. I have fought against anti-Semitism. I am a leader who is leading this fight,” he said.
Mr Scholz meanwhile used the press conference to emphasise Israel’s right to self-defence.
“There is a need to make Israel’s self-defence possible and not to call it into question,” said the German chancellor.
Earlier on Friday, Mr Erdogan also met Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German president, for a discussion about the war.
“President Erdogan stated that Israel’s attacks on Palestinian lands must end and that the reaction from the whole world against human rights violations is important,” said the Turkish presidency in a readout of the meeting between the two leaders.
“A ceasefire should be established immediately,” it added.
More than 12,000 Palestinians, including an estimated 4,000 children, have been killed during Israel’s offensive, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry.
Israel launched the offensive in response to the Oct 7 Hamas massacre in which 1,200 Israelis were killed.
In recent days, it has surrounded and targeted the Al-Shifa hospital in northern Gaza, which it claims is sitting on top of a huge underground Hamas headquarters.
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