Supporters wave flags as Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu emerges from the Turkish consulate after speaking to supporters of the upcoming referendum in Turkey on March 7, 2017 in Hamburg, Germany. Getty

Turkey’s foreign minister defended Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s comments comparing Berlin’s decision to bar Ankara officials from campaigning in Germany to “Nazi practices” Thursday. Tensions between Berlin and Ankara flared last week when German authorities banned political rallies aimed at encouraging Turks living in Germany to vote in a pivotal referendum in Turkey.

Turkish politicians often campaign in Germany as 1.4 million Turks living there still have the right to vote on Turkish legislation. Erdogan accused Germany of pushing for a “No” vote on the referendum scheduled for April 16, which would increase his presidential powers while weakening those of the Turkish parliament. Ankara says the constitutional changes would make Turkey’s presidential system resemble that of the United States and France, but Erdogan's political opponents claim the new policy would strengthen his one-man rule over the country.

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Germany has the largest population of Turks living abroad, with approximately 3 million living there.

“Germany, you are not even close to democracy. Your practices are not different from the Nazi practices of the past," Erdogan said at a women’s rally in Istanbul on Sunday.

Erdogan did not refer to any German politician as being a “Nazi” but rather said that the German government’s decision to cancel the Turkish political rallies exhibited a straying from democracy that was “reminiscent” of that time period, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told the Associated Press.

"No one has said (German Chancellor Angela) Merkel is a Nazi or (German Foreign Minister) Signar Gabriel is a Nazi," Cavusoglu said. "We have not called anyone a Nazi. Our President made a comparison in reference to certain practices."

Any “Nazi” comments from Turkish officials would not be tolerated and needed to stop, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the Guardian Thursday. Erdogan’s accusations were troubling to Merkel, who said, “comparisons with Nazi Germany always lead to misery, to the trivialization of the crimes against humanity committed by national socialism.”

Merkel maintained that her government was not involved in the decision to cancel the pro-Erdogan rallies, but that local municipal authorities had done so because they didn’t have enough resources to patrol the large crowds.