Germany summons Turkish ambassador as row erupts over alleged right-wing salute goal celebration at Euro 2024

Germany summoned Turkey’s ambassador in Berlin Thursday in a tit for tat over a controversial gesture made by a Turkish soccer player celebrating a goal at the European Championship, according to the German foreign ministry.

A spiraling diplomatic row erupted after Turkish defender Merih Demiral made an alleged ultra-nationalist gesture – also known as a ‘wolf salute,’ which is associated with the Turkish right-wing extremist group “Grey Wolves” – during his team’s win over Austria on Tuesday.

“The Turkish ambassador was summoned this morning,” the ministry said in a statement to CNN, a day after Turkey recalled the German ambassador in Ankara. German representatives discussed the incident with the Turkish ambassador in Berlin, the ministry added.

UEFA, the governing body of European soccer, announced in a statement on Wednesday that it is investigating Demiral’s “alleged inappropriate behavior” and sparked condemnation from German leaders, but Ankara immediately branded Berlin’s reaction as “xenophobia” and summoned Germany’s ambassador.

”We can confirm the German ambassador to Turkey was summoned yesterday,” Germany’s foreign ministry said Thursday.

Germany’s Interior Minister Nancy Faeser warned Wednesday “the symbols of Turkish right-wing extremists have no place in our stadiums” and said that “using the European football championships as a platform for racism is completely unacceptable.” Faeser added that the “Grey Wolves” group is under surveillance in Germany.

CNN’s German affiliate network NTV reported Thursday that Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is set to come to Berlin on Saturday for Turkey’s game against the Netherlands.

Following Turkey’s 2-1 round of 16 victory against Austria, Demiral posted a picture of himself making the controversial gesture on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“Happy is one who calls themselves a Turk,” the defender captioned the post.

“I had a certain specific celebration in mind. That’s what I did. It has to do with the Turkish identity because I’m very proud to be a Turk. And I felt that to the fullest after the second goal, so I ended up doing that gesture,” Demiral told reporters after the game. “I’m very happy that I did that.”

In a statement on Wednesday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said that it is “unacceptable” for UEFA to open a disciplinary investigation against Demiral.

“While the ‘grey wolf’ sign is not a banned symbol in Germany, the reactions shown to Mr. Demiral by the German authorities are itself xenophobia,” it said. “We condemn the politically motivated reactions to the use of a historical and cultural symbol in a way that does not target anyone during the celebration of joy at a sports event.”

CNN’s Thomas Schlachter and Isil Sariyuce contributed reporting.

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