The Turkish presidency said on Friday comments by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about the system of governance in Hitler's Germany has been misinterpreted and that he had not suggested it was an example of an effective presidential system.

Erdogan wants to change the Turkish constitution to turn the ceremonial role of president into that of a chief executive, a Turkish version of the system in the United States, France or Russia.

Asked on his return from a visit to Saudi Arabia late on Thursday whether an executive presidential system was possible while maintaining the unitary structure of the state, he said, "There are already examples in the world. You can see it when you look at Hitler's Germany. There are later examples in various other countries," he told reporters, according to a recording broadcast by the Dogan news agency.

A Turkish official told Reuters the comments had been taken out of context and that his comments were meant to demonstrate that an executive presidency can exist in a unitary state and does not depend on a federal system of government, and that neither a presidential nor parliamentary system is a guarantee against abuse of power.

"There are good and poor examples of presidential systems and the important thing is to put checks and balances in place," the official said. "Nazi Germany, lacking proper institutional arrangements, was obviously one of the most disgraceful examples in history."

Turkey's new constitution

The ruling AK Party, founded by Erdogan, has put a new constitution at the heart of its agenda after winning back a majority in a November parliamentary election.

It agreed with the main opposition CHP on Wednesday to revive efforts to forge a new constitution.

Opposition parties agree on the need to change the constitution, drawn up after a 1980 coup and still bearing the stamp of its military authors, but do not back the presidential system envisaged by Erdogan, fearing it will consolidate too much power in the hands of an authoritarian leader.