Turkey’s economy minister meets with Turks in Germany

COLOGNE, Germany -Economy minister Nihat Zeybekci on Sunday met with the Turkish community at an event in the city of Cologne.

The meeting comes ahead of Turkey's April 16 referendum on constitutional reforms, including the crucial change to a presidential system of governance.

The event -- along with another featuring Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag -- was announced cancelled last week, causing a rift between Berlin and Ankara.

The German government has distanced itself from the bans.

In his speech Sunday, Zeybekci thanked Berlin for letting him meet with members of the community at the indoors event hosted by the local branch of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party.

The minister, who did not criticize German authorities, instead described Germany as a "friendly nation".

"We have millions of citizens in this friendly nation, this friendly country," he said. "We are exercising a right."

Ahead of the bans last week, there were calls from German opposition parties and media for a blackout on Turkish politicians ahead of the referendum.

Among Germany's 3 million-strong Turkish community, nearly 1.5 million of them are eligible to vote. They will cast their votes at Turkish consulates in Germany between March 27 and April 9.

Source: Anadolu Agency