Germany Criticizes Trump, Erdogan Ahead of G-20 Meeting -- Update

By Anton Troianovski and Andrea Thomas Features Dow Jones Newswires

A major meeting of world leaders in Germany next week emerged as a flashpoint of tension between allies on Thursday as Chancellor Angela Merkel sought to block the Turkish president from giving a speech in Germany and European leaders ratcheted up their criticism of President Donald Trump.

Continue Reading Below

In the space of a few hours Thursday, Ms. Merkel and her government delivered broadsides against both Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had wanted to give a speech on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg next week, and against Mr. Trump's positions on climate and trade policy.

Speaking to the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament, Ms. Merkel criticized the U.S. for abandoning the Paris climate accord and warned of difficult talks.

"We want to and must master this existential challenge, and we cannot and will not wait until every last person in the world has been successfully convinced of the scientific findings about climate change," Ms. Merkel said. "Those who believe they can solve the problems of this world with isolationism and protectionism are making a huge error."

Mr. Erdogan and Mr. Trump will join Ms. Merkel and other leaders of 20 large economies at the two-day annual summit that starts on July 7. While much of the anticipation in the U.S. has focused on Mr. Trump's likely first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, European leaders hope to use the summit to present Mr. Trump with a united front backing the Paris climate accord and opposing new trade barriers.

"The G-20 summit takes place in especially challenging conditions this year," Ms. Merkel said. "The world is in turbulence. It has become less united."

Continue Reading Below

Ms. Merkel is not only girding for tough talks with Mr. Trump, but also preparing for potentially violent protests. Mr. Erdogan, in particular, is a divisive figure in Germany's large Turkish diaspora.

Ms. Merkel's foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, said Thursday that the Turkish president had notified Germany of plans to deliver a speech to supporters on the sidelines of the summit. Such an appearance, Mr. Gabriel warned, was "not possible" and risked inciting conflict in Germany's large community of people of Turkish descent.

Ms. Merkel backed Mr. Gabriel's position, her spokesman said.

"The Turkish people who live in Germany are part of our society," Mr. Gabriel said Thursday while on a visit to Russia. "We do not want these people stirred up through conflicts in their home country."

Relations between Germany and Turkey, a fellow North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally, have deteriorated rapidly since last summer's aborted coup in Turkey.

Tensions escalated this year after Turkey detained a prominent German-Turkish journalist, Turkish officials were barred from holding political rallies in Germany, Berlin granted asylum to Turkish military officers wanted in connection with the failed coup, and Turkey barred German lawmakers from visiting German troops stationed in Turkey.

In Berlin, eight other European leaders joined Ms. Merkel on Thursday at her Chancellery office to prepare a united front for the Hamburg summit. They echoed her defense of free trade and the importance of fighting climate change.

The leaders' comments after the meeting showed that the summit is shaping up as a clash between proponents of a liberal world order, embodied by host Ms. Merkel and recently elected French President Emmanuel Macron on the one hand, and advocates of the antiestablishment nationalism that Mr. Trump, Mr. Putin and Mr. Erdogan have come to represent in Europe.

"I believe Europe is currently the only place that defends the vision of fair free trade and multilateralism against protectionism and, of course, against all dumping practices and the breach of international rules," Mr. Macron said.

Without referring the U.S. directly, Mr. Macron said he hoped some countries would "come to their senses again" on climate change. Mr. Trump caused consternation in Europe when he said earlier this month the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris agreement to curb global warming.

Write to Anton Troianovski at anton.troianovski@wsj.com and Andrea Thomas at andrea.thomas@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 29, 2017 13:21 ET (17:21 GMT)