Europe urges Erdogan to respect the law and human rights

By French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said: The rule of law must prevail ... We need authority but we also need democracy." Updated at 2016-07-18 16:50:00 +0000


European foreign ministers urge Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Monday to respect the law and human rights in dealing with defeated coup plotters.

Kerry shares concern over Erdogan's authoritarian turn and discusses Turkey's role as an ally in Syria, in facing off with Russia and as gatekeeper on a migrant route to Europe.

What was to be a routine, has been swept into a perfect storm as three major developments battered Brussels' agenda in 48 hours on successive days last week:

-- The accelerated formation of a new British government under Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday and her choice of Brussels-baiting journalist and Brexit campaigner Boris Johnson as foreign secretary. He will brief uncomfortable counterparts on how Britain, one of the EU's two main military powers, may cooperate on foreign policy once it leaves the Union. It will be the first high-level EU meeting for one of May's new ministers.

-- The killing of 84 people by a Tunisian-born local man who ploughed a truck along the seafront at Nice as France celebrated Bastille Day on Thursday, claimed by Syria-based Islamic State. Ministers will observe a minute's silence for the victims and discuss, after the third major Islamist attack in France in 18 months and four months after bombers struck Brussels itself, how to cooperate against radicals at home and IS in the Middle East.

-- And finally, on Friday, the military coup that crumbled when Erdogan rallied his supporters onto the streets and secured the loyalty of a greater part of the security services.

Monday, July 18, 2016
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry poses with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini (R) during an European Union foreign ministers meeting in Brussels, Belgium, July 18, 2016. REUTERS/Stephanie Lecocq/Pool


Kerry, who met his EU counterparts for two hours from 8 a.m. (0600 GMT), said in Luxembourg on Sunday that the coup bid in NATO ally Turkey had not disrupted the U.S.-led campaign against ISIS, although Incirlik air base, used notably by the U.S. and German air forces, was locked down for a time.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Sunday there "questions" over whether Turkey, under Erdogan's Islamist-rooted AK party, was a "viable" ally, referring to "suspicions" about Ankara's motivations.

And he insisted European backing for Erdogan against the coup was not a "blank cheque" for him to oppress his opponents.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini warned the Turkish government on Monday against taking steps that would damage the constitutional order following a failed weekend coup.

"We were the first... during that tragic night to say that the legitimate institutions needed to be protected," she told reporters on arrival at an EU foreign ministers meeting, which was also to be attended by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

"We are the ones saying today rule of law has to be protected in the country," she said in Brussels. "There is no excuse for any steps that takes the country away from that."

She also said: "The democratic and legitimate institutions needed to be protected. Today, we will say together with the ministers that this obviously doesn't mean that the rule of law and the system of checks and balances does not count."

"On the contrary, it needs to be protected for the sake of the country itself. So we will send a strong message."

Other ministers also expressed concerns about events after the coup. Mogherini's fellow EU commissioner, Johannes Hahn, who is dealing with Turkey's membership request, said he had the impression that the government had prepared lists of those such as judges to be arrested even before the coup took place.

"It looks at least as if something has been prepared. The lists are available, which indicates it was prepared and to be used at a certain stage," Hahn said. "I'm very concerned. It is exactly what we feared."

Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said he was also concerned about the arrests of judges and also about President Tayyip Erdogan's suggestion of reintroducing the death penalty for plotters. That, Reynders said, "would pose a problem with Turkey’s ties with the European Union".

Abolishing capital punishment, as Turkey did in 2004 before it could open the formal process of accession negotiations with the EU, is a prerequisite for holding talks on membership.

Reynders said: "We cannot imagine that from a country that seeks to join the European Union. We must be very firm today, to condemn the coup d’etat but the response must respect the rule of law.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said: "We cannot accept a military dictatorship but we also have to be careful that the Turkish authorities do not put in place a political system which turns away from democracy ... The rule of law must prevail ... We need authority but we also need democracy."

(Reporting by Alastair Macdonald and Robin Emmott; Editing by Philip Blenkinsop)

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