Germany's government on Monday condemned remarks by Turkey's president accusing officials of "Nazi practices," days after a local authority prevented a Turkish minister from addressing a rally there, the AP reports. Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's statements "absolutely unacceptable." "Germany cannot be outmatched regarding the rule of law, tolerance and liberalism," he told German public Television ARD. Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert said the German government "strongly rejected" the equation of modern Germany with Nazi Germany, adding that such comparisons downplayed the crimes of the Nazis. Seibert noted that there were strong social, economic and military ties between Germany and Turkey, but acknowledged that there were "far-reaching differences of opinion" between Berlin and Ankara at the moment.
Erdogan had said Sunday in Istanbul that "Germany, you don't have anything to do with democracy. These current practices of yours are no different than the Nazi practices of the past." His remarks followed a decision last week by local authorities in southwest Germany to withdraw permission for Turkey's justice minister to use a venue to hold a rally near the French border that was part of a campaign to get Turks in Germany to vote "yes" in an upcoming referendum on constitutional reform. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel sought to smooth stirred-up emotions on Monday and stressed the need to "normalize" what he calls a "highly strained" relationship with Turkey. Diplomatic tensions have been rising in recent days amid Turkish plans to have government ministers address rallies in Germany and the Netherlands in support of the referendum that would give Erdogan new powers. (Read more Recep Tayyip Erdogan stories.)