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Zurich wants to cancel Turkish foreign minister's Swiss visit

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Zurich wants to cancel Turkish foreign minister's Swiss visit
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. Photo: Steffi Loos/AFP
08:26 CET+01:00
Zurich on Wednesday asked the Swiss government to cancel a planned visit by the Turkish foreign minister to the canton over security concerns, after several local authorities in Germany blocked rallies by Turkish ministers.
"I've sent a letter to Bern, to (Swiss foreign minister Didier) Burkhalter, stating that we want them to take measures that the planned event in Zurich on Sunday would not happen," Urs Grob, communications chief at Zurich's cantonal security directorate, told AFP.
   
He cited security concerns and expectations that "heavy demonstrations" would take place if Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu were to visit Zurich.
   
The move came after a spate of cancelled rallies in Germany by Turkish politicians aiming to boost support ahead of an April 16th referendum on whether to expand President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's powers by creating an executive presidency.
   
Although Berlin has insisted the rallies were cancelled by local authorities for logistical reasons, Turkish officials have hit back repeatedly, with Erdogan even comparing such actions to "Nazi practices".
   
In a statement, the canton of Zurich said it had stressed the controversy in Germany in its request to Bern to cancel Cavusoglu's visit.
   
"In view of the extremely controversial discussions surrounding the presence of Turkish representatives in Germany, massive rallies can be expected before the event," it warned.
   
"Even with a large police presence, it can not be guaranteed that the event can take place peacefully," the statement said, also stressing concern over the risks to which a large number of institutions in the city of Zurich would be exposed if the visit went ahead.
   
The Swiss foreign ministry confirmed it had received the letter from the canton of Zurich, telling AFP that it and the justice ministry had requested a full security analysis of the planned visit.
   
"The next steps in this case will be taken once we have that analysis," the ministry said in an email.
   
Earlier on Wednesday, the ministry confirmed it had been informed by Turkey that Cavusoglu was planning a visit, but said "no meetings are scheduled with Swiss authorities".
   
The Turkish minister was instead planning to meet with Turkey's representative in Switzerland and Austria, followed by a meeting near the Zurich airport with members of the Turkish community, it said.
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