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'EU didn't show Turkey the support it needed'

Turkey's EU Minister Omer Celik expresses government and Turkish people’s disappointment with EU’s reaction in face of failed coup

September 4, 2016 at 3:36 pm

The EU failed to show Turkey the support it needed during the July 15 defeated coup, a senior Turkish official said Saturday.

“Stronger support should have been given,” Turkish EU minister and Chief Negotiator Omer Celik said in Bratislava, Slovakia, during a news conference following an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers.

Celik said that in many statements issued by EU leaders, they condemned the coup in just one sentence but questioned the democratic credentials of the steps taken by the Turkish government in nine sentences.

“During the meeting I clearly expressed that our government and the Turkish people felt disappointed,” he said.

Celik said the EU foreign ministers meeting was “fruitful,” as he had the opportunity to tell them about the attempted coup.

“During the meeting I informed my counterparts about how the president of our republic, our prime minister, and members of our government were intended for assassination and how during the attempted coup our parliament and the Presidential Palace were bombed.”

Celik said that Turkey is a country governed according to the rule of law, adding that they could have killed the putschist soldiers in the clashes that followed the coup attempt, but instead caught them and brought them to justice.

He said that Turkey is not after revenge, but justice.

Celik related how on July 15 Turkey faced a coup attempt, while on August 24 the Turkish army started fighting Daesh in northern Syria. “Beside that, since I arrived here yesterday, 16 soldiers have been martyred in PKK attacks.”

Celik said there had another country faced the same conditions as Turkey, it would have closed its borders and probably suspended international conventions. But, now, he said, he was speaking as a Turkish minister with his “counterparts about democracy, human rights, the rule of law, and furthering our cooperation.”

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Future of Turkey and the EU

On the future of the EU-Turkey refugee deal, Celik said that Ankara is implementing the agreement on humanitarian grounds, but warned that it will not be part of any new mechanism if Turkish nationals are not first granted visa liberalisation.

The EU and Turkey signed a deal on March 18, which aims to discourage irregular migration through the Aegean Sea by taking stricter measures against human traffickers and improving the conditions of nearly 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.

The deal also allows for the acceleration of Turkey’s EU membership bid and visa-free travel for Turkish nationals within the Schengen area, on the condition that Ankara meets 72 requirements set by the EU.

While Turkey has fulfilled most of the criteria, differences between Brussels and Ankara on anti-terror legislation have forestalled the visa liberalisation deal.

According to the EU, Turkey must revise its “legislation and practices on terrorism in line with European standards” in order for visa liberalisation for Turkish citizens to enter into force.
But Celik again made it clear that Turkey cannot change its terror laws at a time when terrorist groups are attacking it.

“It is not rational to bring up changes in terror laws at a time when Daesh, the PKK and FETO [the terrorist group blamed for the July 15 failed coup] are attacking us,” he said.

“We cannot create weaknesses in the fight against terror,” Celik said, but added that a commitment could be made “to changes that could be made going forward, in consultation with the Council of Europe.”

Celik said he wants the EU-Turkey common sense and common action plan to continue. “My country is not an EU member. But we have been a European power throughout history,” he said, adding that in the last 100 years, Turkey has been a European democracy.

Turkey’s government says the defeated coup, which left 240 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured, was organised by followers of Fetullah Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the US since 1999, and his FETO network.

Gulen is accused of leading a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary, forming what is commonly known as the parallel state.

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