One thing is fairly certain when Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appear together in front of the press today: If Erdogan continues his verbal attacks against Israel on the open stage in the Berlin Chancellery, Scholz will not remain silent.

He once did this when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, during a visit to Berlin, accused Israel of carrying out a 50-fold holocaust against the Palestinians. The outraged reaction to this did not follow immediately on the spot, but only later in the “Bild” newspaper: the statements were “unbearable and unacceptable,” it was said with some delay.

That probably won’t happen to Scholz again. He should be well prepared for repeated or new attacks by Erdogan against Israel when he receives him for dinner in the Chancellery. A “press meeting” is planned before the conversation – the only event during the visit at which both will speak publicly.

Erdogan calls Israel a “terrorist state”

Although Erdogan condemned the murder of hundreds of Israeli civilians in the terrorist attack on October 7th, he later described Hamas, which was responsible, as a “liberation organization.” The Turkish president, on the other hand, described Israel as a “terrorist state” and even questioned its right to exist. Israel is trying to “build a state whose history goes back only 75 years and whose legitimacy is questioned by its own fascism,” he said late last week.

The German perspective is exactly the opposite. Hamas is classified as a terrorist organization here and Israel’s security is German reasons of state. Scholz therefore rejected Erdogan’s verbal attacks as “absurd”. But he doesn’t want to block the channel for communication with Turkey. There are many topics to discuss with Erdogan, he says again and again. But what exactly is there to get from the Turkish president?

Turkey as a mediator in the Middle East conflict

German citizens are among the more than 200 Hamas hostages in the Gaza Strip. The federal government has been trying for weeks to use all diplomatic channels to get her released. Turkey could act as a mediator with its ties to Hamas.

So far, Qatar has played a much larger role in this regard. In the future, however, Turkey could be involved as a bridge state between the West and the Islamic world in the search for a political solution to the Middle East conflict. Like Germany, it stands for the peaceful coexistence of an Israeli and a Palestinian state.

Refugee pact between the EU and Turkey

Scholz has just received a mandate from the prime ministers of the 16 federal states to work towards reviving the refugee pact between the EU and Turkey that was concluded in 2016. Through him, Turkey committed to stopping smuggling activities at its border and taking back migrants who come to the Greek islands illegally via Turkey.

In return, Ankara received billions in aid from the EU, including for the accommodation of the refugees. However, Turkey has not been accepting any migrants back from Greece since 2020 – the reason for this was the outbreak of the corona pandemic.

NATO member with good contacts to Russia

As a NATO member with good contacts with Russia, Turkey can also be helpful in the Ukraine conflict. Ankara was significantly involved in agreeing the so-called grain deal. Russia allowed the agreement to expire in July, but until then millions of tons of Ukrainian grain could be exported across the Black Sea. Turkey is pushing for a new edition of the agreement.

Government and Union agree: Visit is the right thing to do

Because of all these points, the traffic light government and the Union largely agree that Erdogan’s visit to Berlin is the right thing to do. But there are also critics who see it differently.

Anyone who condemns Hamas must also draw consequences for how they deal with those who support this Islamist organization, says the Turkish exiled journalist Can Dündar. In Germany, demonstrations in support of Hamas would be banned. “But at the same time they invite a Hamas supporter and roll out the red carpet for him. That’s weird, a kind of double standard.”