German President Steinmeier faces pro-Palestinian protests upon arrival in Istanbul

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier arrived in Istanbul, the first stop of his three-day visit to Turkey to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of diplomatic relations between the two countries. During his meeting with Istanbul mayor İmamoğlu, pro-Palestinian activists protested against the president with slogans, "Murderer Germany, guilty of genocide.”

Duvar English

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on April 22 arrived in Istanbul, the first stop of his three-day visit to Turkey.

Istanbul Governor Davut Gül, German Ambassador to Ankara Jürgen Schulz, Turkish Ambassador to Berlin Ahmet Başar Şen and other officials welcomed Steinmeier and the accompanying delegation at Istanbul Airport.

Steinmeier will visit Istanbul, southeastern Gaziantep province, and the capital Ankara on his first visit to Turkey to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Steinmeier first arrived at Sirkeci Train Station in Istanbul, where the first Turkish migrant worker caravan set off for Germany in 1961. Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu welcomed Steinmeier here and held a closed meeting at the historical Orient Express Restaurant.

German President Steinmeier and Istanbul's Mayor İmamoğlu chat at the entrance of Sirkeci Train Station in Istanbul. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

After the meeting, President Steinmeier and Mayor İmamoğlu visited the Railway Museum with Istanbul Governor Gül to see an exhibitions about migrant workers.

While leaving the exhibition with the accompanying delegation, a group of Pro-Palestinian protesters shouted slogans such as "Murderer Germany, get out of Turkey" and "Murderer Germany, guilty of genocide.” The police intervened the protesters.

Istanbul Governor's Office informed ANKA news agency that the security forces only “dispersed” the protesters and that no detention have been made yet.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators shout slogans and scuffle with plain cloth police officers as German President visits Sirkeci Train Station. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

After the visit, Steinmeier spoke at a press conference and said that Sirkeci Station had symbolized the journey into the unknown.

German President said that homesickness, hardship and struggle were expected at the end of this journey into the unknown and added, "Today, about thre million people of Turkish origin live in our country and help to shape our society. They have helped to build our country, made our country strong, and are at the heart of our society."

"When we in Germany celebrate the 75th birthday of our Federal Republic in a month's time, we will do so with the awareness that the millions of stories of Turkish-German migrants are part of our history," Steinmeier underscored.

After his programme in the railway station, Steinmeier walked to the pier in Eminönü neighborhood and boarded the ferry.

In his walk, Steinmeier had a conversation with Korkmaz Albayrak, who said that he worked as a migrant worker in Germany. Albayrak showed the president a photograph of him and Steinmeier in Germany.

German President Steinmeier talks to a Turkish immigrant worker who shows him an old picture of him and Steinmeier in a German factory where he worked before he returned back to Turkey, April 22, 2024. REUTERS/Dilara Senkaya

According to Anadolu Agency, Steinmeier is expected to meet with people with Turkish-German migration experience and discuss economic relations between the two countries with representatives of German companies during a boat trip. The president is also scheduled to meet with representatives of business, science, art, literature, sports, and non-governmental organizations.

The German president has invited Arif Keleş, a doner kebab chef from Berlin whose grandfather migrated to Germany as a worker in the 1960s, to join his delegation during his visit to Turkey. Keleş will serve doner kebab to the guests at a dinner in Istanbul.

On the second day of his visit, Steinmeier will visit a shelter for earthquake victims and a school in Gaziantep province, the construction of which was supported by Germany, and is expected to attend the National Sovereignty and Children's Day celebrations there. 

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on April 24 will receive German President in the capital Ankara. Erdoğan travelled to Iraq for the first time in 12 years on the same day Steinmeier arrived in Turkey.

Steinmeier has recently criticized Erdoğan's approach towards Israel and has previously expressed concern about the erosion of democracy in Turkey. Some reports attributed Steinmeier's late meeting with Erdoğan to the strained diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Steinmeier is also scheduled to visit Ankara University and Anıtkabir to lay a wreath at Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's mausoleum. German President is also expected to meet with Ankara Metropolitan Municipality Mayor Mansur Yavaş.