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Germany urges restraint ahead of Erdogan's planned speech in Cologne

The German government has urged Turkey’s prime minister to exercise restraint when he visits the country on the weekend. This followed calls from some German politicians for Recep Tayyip Erdogan to cancel his visit.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert told reporters in Berlin on Monday that as the prime minister of a "really close and important partner" nation, Erdogan was welcome in Germany, where he plans to deliver a speech to local Turks on Saturday.

At the same time, though, Seibert said the German government expected Erdogan to choose his words carefully at what he described as a "difficult" time, given the political tensions in Turkey in light of the recent mining disaster and the fact that it comes one day before the European elections.

Seibert said in light of this, the government expected Erdogan to deliver a "sensitive, responsible" speech, when he addresses thousands of his fellow countrymen and women at an indoor stadium in the western city of Cologne.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also said Erdogan was welcome to speak in Cologne. He added though, that he expected Erdogan to "comply with international norms" when he delivers what is expected to be a campaign speech.

Several politicians from both the German government and opposition benches had previously called for the event to be canceled.

There has been much speculation that Erdogan plans to run in Turkey's presidential election on August 10, although he has not officially announced his candidacy. For the first time, Turkish nationals living abroad will be able to vote in their country' presidential election. There are around 1.5 million Turkish residents living in Germany who are eligible to vote.

Mining officials arrested

Meanwhile, five officials with the company that operated the mine in the western Turkish city of Soma, where 301 people died in last week's accident have been arrested on charges of death through negligence, according to local media reports. The company, Soma Holding, has denied that negligence was a factor in Turkey's workst mining diaster. The arrests came after 25 people were brought in for questioning about the accident on Sunday.

Erdogan's government has also denied any responsibility. Since the disaster there have been protests in several Turkish cities to call on Erdogan's government to step down.

pfd/ (dpa, AFP, AP, Reuters)

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