ISTANBUL - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday said German Chancellor Angela Merkel was an enemy of Turkey and called on Turks in Germany to vote against her and other major parties in next month's elections.
The comments are some of Erdogan's harshest yet against Merkel and her Christian Democrats, illustrating the widening divide between the NATO allies and major trade partners.
Ties between Ankara and Berlin have been strained in the aftermath of last year's failed coup as Turkish authorities have detained more than 50,000 people and sacked or suspended 150,000, drawing criticism from Europe. Erdogan, who has little patience for Western criticism, has accused Germany of anti-Turkish sentiment.
"I am calling on all my countrymen in Germany: the Christian Democrats, SDP, the Green Party are all enemies of Turkey. Support those political parties who are not enemies of Turkey," he said in comments after Friday prayers in Istanbul.
"I call on them not to vote for those parties who have been engaged in such aggressive, disrespectful attitudes against Turkey, and I invite them to teach a lesson to those political parties at the ballot box," he said.
Germany has a large Turkish diaspora. Germans go to the polls on Sept. 24 for elections where Merkel is running for a fourth term.
Tensions between the two countries have been also been strained as German nationals — including a journalist and a rights activist — have been caught up in the crackdown.
Merkel has also said there would be no expansion of a customs union or deepening in EU-Turkish ties, comments which infuriated Turkey.
Erdogan on Friday said Merkel's remarks on the customs union showed Germany had become a country that violates the European Union's acquis, or body of law.