Germany’s foreign ministry Tuesday scrapped a planned symphony performance on the Armenian “genocide” in its Istanbul consulate, sparking accusations that it was caving in to Turkish pressure.
Berlin and Ankara have rowed intensely this year over the sensitive historical question, badly bruising relations between the NATO partners at a time the EU is relying on Turkey’s help to contain massive refugee flows.
The Dresden Symphony Orchestra had sent out invitations for its performance of “Aghet”, about the Ottoman Empire’s World War I-era massacre of Armenians, saying it aimed to “heal the wounds of the Turkish and Armenian past”.
Armenians have long labelled the 1915-17 killings that left some 1.5 million of their people dead as genocide, while Turkey argues it was a collective tragedy in which equal numbers of Turks and Armenians died.
The Dresden Symphony Orchestra had sent invitations to the November 13 show to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Minister of Culture Nabi Avci, German media reported.
But a German foreign ministry source said in a short statement Tuesday that “the facilities in the consulate are not available on November 13”.
“The invitations to the event were issued without the foreign ministry’s involvement.”
German opposition politicians quickly mocked Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier for apparently giving in to Erdogan’s government.
“Another kowtow by Merkel + Steinmeier before Erdogan,” tweeted Sarah Wagenknecht, co-leader of the opposition far-left Linke party.
“Embarrassing! Is government policy being directed from Ankara?”
Relations long strained over disputes on civil rights questions in Turkey took a dive after the German parliament in a June resolution declared the Armenia massacre a genocide.
Turkey for months blocked German parliamentarians from visiting German troops at a NATO base in southern Turkey, until Merkel’s government publicly clarified that the vote was non-binding.
Germany is home to a three-million-strong ethnic Turkish population, the legacy of a massive “guest worker” programme in the 1960s and 1970s.
As Europe’s top destination for refugees last year, Germany has relied on an EU-Turkey agreement designed to stop the massive influx of people fleeing war and poverty.
Another major row was sparked by German TV comic Jan Boehmermann who in a so-called “Defamatory Poem” satirically accused the Turkish president of bestiality and paedophilia, sparking a criminal complaint by Erdogan.