Characterised as an “uncomfortable partner” by Scholz’s spokesman, Erdogan was on his first visit to Germany since 2020.
Scholz gave a hint of the tone at the upcoming talks as he slapped down a recent “fascism” accusation against Israel by Erdogan as “absurd”.
Yet the Turkish leader ramped up his verbal attacks against Israel this week, calling it a “terror state” and alleging the West was “trying to exonerate the murderers”.
The daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said Germany offered the “ideal stage” for Erdogan to position himself as a voice for the “global south”.
“As the loudest critic of Israel, he is underlining his demand for leadership of the Islamic world,” said the daily.
Another issue that Erdogan may raise is Türkiye’s hopes to buy 40 Eurofighter Typhoon jets, which, according to Türkiye’s defence ministry, co-manufacturer Germany opposes.
Because of the differences, Scholz’s centre-left-led government said it was all the more important to keep talking.
“We have always had difficult partners whom we have to deal with,” said Scholz’s spokesman Steffen Hebestreit, acknowledging that it is a visit “that will be challenging given the current circumstances”.
“But it’s not just about telling each other what we think, it’s about moving forward on numerous issues … and for that, we need these talks.”
Ties between the two countries have always been uneasy, with Berlin critical of Erdogan’s clampdown on domestic dissent while recognising that getting regional power Türkiye onside was necessary to tackle thorny issues.
From mediating to get grain shipments out of Ukraine amid Russia’s war to negotiating a key deal on alleviating the 2015-2016 migrant influx in Europe, NATO member Türkiye remains a crucial player.
Germany is also home to the biggest Turkish diaspora abroad, and a majority of the Turkish community in the country are supporters of Erdogan, including former German international footballer Mesut Ozil.
Erdogan’s strident criticism of Israel sets him awkwardly against Germany, which has made the existence of Israel unconditional given its responsibilities over the Holocaust.
Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said Erdogan did not deserve to be trusted.
“Anyone who not only denies Israel’s right to exist but also actively fights against it should not a be a partner for German politicians,” he told newspaper group RND.
Calling Erdogan’s accusations against Israel “completely unacceptable”, Michael Roth, who heads the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs, also said the Turkish leader “not only puts a strain on the relations between Germany and Türkiye but above all he is a burden for his own country”.
Yet Roth, who like Scholz is a Social Democrat, said the talks were important and should deliver “a lot of plain language”.