Erdogan to attend Turkey-Netherlands Euro 2024 quarterfinal amid diplomatic row with host Germany

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan plans to travel to Berlin to attend the 2024 European Championship quarterfinal game between Turkey and the Netherlands, an official said Thursday, after a controversial gesture by a national team player ignited a diplomatic row between Turkey and the host nation, Germany.

Turkey on Wednesday summoned the German ambassador to protest German interior minister Nancy Faeser’s criticism of Merih Demiral, who made a hand gesture that is associated with an ultra-nationalist group. The German news agency dpa reported that in response, Germany summoned the Turkish ambassador to Berlin on Thursday.

Demiral scored both goals in a 2-1 win over Austria to earn Turkey’s place in Saturday’s quarterfinals.

The player made a sign with each hand that is recognized as a symbol of Turkish nationalism after scoring his second goal on Tuesday. The sign is associated with the Turkish ultra-nationalist organization Ulku Ocaklari, which is more widely known as the Gray Wolves.

UEFA said it was investigating Demiral’s “alleged inappropriate behavior.” The soccer body did not outline when the case might conclude.

Erdogan was scheduled to attend a meeting in Azerbaijan on Saturday but has decided to travel to Berlin instead to support the national team, an official said. Vice-President Cevdet Yilmaz would represent the Turkish leader in Azerbaijan. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Faeser said on the social media platform X that the symbol “of Turkish right-wing extremists” has no place in German stadiums and urged UEFA to punish the player for making the gesture.

Her comments drew a strong reaction from Turkish officials. Turkey’s Foreign Ministry denounced the investigation, labeling it as politically motivated response “to the use of a historical and cultural symbol.”

Demiral has said he had the celebration in mind before scoring. He described his action as something “to do with this Turkish identity, because I’m very proud to be a Turk.”

The Gray Wolves group was founded as the youth wing of Turkey’s far-right Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, which is currently in an alliance with Erdogan’s ruling party, the Justice and Development Party.

The group has been banned in France, while Austria has banned the use of the Gray Wolf salute. Germany’s federal domestic agency meanwhile, monitors the Gray Wolves group’s activities.


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