Germany has summoned Turkey's ambassador as the controversy over a Turkish player's ultra-nationalist gesture at Euro 2024 escalates.

UEFA is investigating Merih Demiral for making a wolf's head symbol with his fingers, a gesture associated with the far-right group known as the Grey Wolves, after scoring against Austria in Leipzig on Tuesday.

In response to the growing diplomatic tensions, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has reportedly canceled plans to attend a summit of Turkic states in Azerbaijan, opting instead to be present at Turkey's quarter-final match against the Netherlands.

The Grey Wolves are the youth wing of Turkey's Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), an ally of Erdogan's AK Party. The gesture has ignited a diplomatic dispute between Germany and Turkey.

"As Euro 2024 hosts, we want sport to unite," Germany's foreign ministry stated while announcing the summoning of Turkey's ambassador. This action came a day after Turkey summoned Germany's ambassador over the same issue.

Turkey's foreign ministry accused German authorities of "xenophobia" in their approach to Demiral and deemed UEFA's investigation "unacceptable." The ministry defended Demiral's gesture as a historical and cultural symbol that did not target anyone.

Demiral stated he made the gesture because he is "very proud to be a Turk" and saw fans making it, prompting him to join in the celebration.

'No Place in Our Stadiums'

Germany's interior minister Nancy Faeser condemned the gesture, calling it a symbol of "Turkish right-wing extremists" that has "no place in our stadiums." She added, "Using the European Football Championship as a platform for racism is completely unacceptable."

The Grey Wolves, established in the 1960s, were involved in political violence in Turkey, resulting in around 5,000 deaths around the time of a 1980 coup. The group's symbol is banned in Austria, while in Germany, although not banned, the group is under surveillance.

France banned the organization outright in 2020, accusing it of "extremely violent actions" and threats.

Call to Ban Grey Wolves

The German Israeli Society, describing the Grey Wolves as a threat to Jews, Armenians, Greeks, and Kurds, urged German authorities to ban the group. Volker Beck, its president, stated, "The ideological superiority of these fascist nationalists jeopardizes public safety."

In Turkey, the ruling AK Party and its MHP ally defended Demiral, arguing that the backlash was disproportionate. AK Party spokesperson Omer Celik suggested that concerns about racism and fascism should focus on recent elections across Europe, where the far right has been gaining ground.

MHP leader Devlet Bahceli added, "The Grey Wolf sign made by our son Merih after hitting the net is the Turkish nation's message to the world, and UEFA's launch of an investigation in this context is both ill-intentioned and part of a chain of provocations that have gained dangerous ground in recent days."

While some believe President Erdogan's decision to watch Turkey's quarter-final on Saturday is a show of solidarity, Middle East Eye reports one source claiming he "only wants to watch the game."

This incident coincides with the start of a trial in Turkey involving 22 people over the murder of former Grey Wolves leader Sinan Ates, who was shot dead in Ankara in late 2022. Photo by Seljuk Turkic, Wikimedia commons.