Merkel, other German leaders dismiss Turkish travel warning

BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel and other senior German politicians on Sunday dismissed a travel warning for their country issued by Turkey amid persistent tensions between the two nations.

Turkey's Foreign Ministry cited increased right-wing and racist rhetoric before Germany's Sept. 24 election in the warning it circulated Saturday.

The countries are at odds over Turkey's detention of at least 10 Germans on what Berlin considers political grounds, among them two journalists.

Other strains include local German authorities' refusal earlier this year to allow rallies by Turkish politicians ahead of a referendum on the Turkish president's powers. In response, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Germany of "committing Nazi practices."

During a televised pre-election debate a week ago, Merkel said Turkey was departing from democratic practices at "breakneck speed." Her center-left challenger, Martin Schulz, said he would seek to end Turkey's membership talks with the European Union.

On Sunday, Merkel rejected the premise of the Turkish travel warning, news agency dpa reported.

"I want to say very clearly here that every Turkish citizen can travel to us," she said at a rally in Delbrueck in western Germany. "No journalists are jailed here, no journalists put in investigative custody — we have freedom of opinion and the rule of law. And we are proud of that."

Merkel's chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, described the Turkish warning on Twitter as "a bad joke" and added that "Nazi comparisons offend our honor!"

Schulz tweeted: "Fact is: it's in Turkey, not here, that journalists who speak their opinion are jailed."

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