Turkey's Erdogan opens mosque in German city of Cologne

Demonstrators waved placards saying 'Refugees welcome Erdogan not welcome'

Demonstrators waved placards saying 'Refugees welcome Erdogan not welcome'

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan wrapped up an ill-tempered visit to Germany on Saturday with a visit to Cologne, where a security lockdown kept supporters and protesters away from a ceremony to open the country's largest mosque.

The inauguration will be the closing event of his three-day state visit, aimed at repairing frayed ties with Berlin after two years of tensions.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met with Germa Chancellor Angela Merkel on September 29 at a working breakfast to discuss bilateral and global issues.

Erdogan also called for a common stance against racism, stressing that Islamophobia, xenophobia and racism are maladies that threaten both the present and future.

"We are here to show Cologne does not want you", the 22-year-old said. He had breakfast with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Saturday.

Hundreds of people have gathered in the German city of Cologne to protest against a visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Semra, a 41-year-old kitchen worker, agreed.

Both Cologne mayor Henriette Reker and the state's premier Armin Laschet pulled out of attending the opening as criticism of Erdogan's visit grew. "He's doing everything that's right for Turkey and we are fully behind him".

The building of the mosque was funded by the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB) an Islamic religious orgnaisation with close ties to Turkey.

The snubs echoed the lukewarm welcome the Turkish leader received at a state dinner on Friday evening hosted by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, which several opposition politicians boycotted.

"We have a lot that unites us", Merkel said during the conference, despite also calling for a resolution to cases in which German citizens were arrested and being held in Turkey.

Erdogan, in turn, demanded Germany send Turkey supporters of Fethullah Gülen, who is blamed for the failed coup attempt in 2016.

Merkel, whose country is home to more than three million ethnic Turks, stressed the need for continued dialogue to overcome disagreements.

The meeting between President Erdogan and Chancellor Merkel in Berlin has also been marred by other controversies including reports that Erdogan demanded the German government extradite 69 Turkish activists, Kronen Zeitung reports.

But she also highlighted Germany's interest in a "stable" Turkey, which she relies on to help stem the flow of migrants to Europe.

Erdogan, seeking European allies as he spars with US President Donald Trump and the Turkish economy is in turmoil, likewise struck a conciliatory tone.

The giant Cologne Central Mosque finally opened its doors in 2017 after eight years of construction and budget overruns.

Germany is home to a 3 million-strong Turkish diaspora.

The size of the building, created to resemble a flower bud opening, and its two towering minarets has disgruntled some locals, triggering occasional protests.

The group runs hundreds of mosques across Germany with imams paid by the Turkish state.

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