Erdogan under fire in Paris
During a tense press conference in Paris with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Macron warned against flouting the rule of law and freedom of expression while Erdogan accused journalists of acting as “gardeners” of terrorism.
Relations deteriorated last year after several EU countries prevented Turkish ministers from holding political rallies to court expatriate votes in an April referendum to expand Erdogan’s powers.
Erdogan presided over the arrest of up 55,000 security force members, judges, academics, journalists and activists after the botched July 15, 2016, coup.
He criticised a reporter who asked about claims Turkey sent arms to Syria.
The journalist had asked him about a story in the Cumhuriyet newspaper in 2015 which alleged Turkish spies had sent hardware.
Erdogan responded by accusing the reporter of talking like a member of the self-exiled preacher Fethullah Gulen’s movement, which he blamed for the 2016 coup.
“When you ask your questions, be careful on this point. And do not speak with the words of another,” Erdogan said.
He said Turkey was “exhausted” after 54 years in the EU “antichambre”.
Protesters condemned deteriorating press freedoms and eroding human rights in Turkey upon Erdogan’s arrival.
About 30 activists from Reporters Sans Frontiers displayed placards of jailed journalists outside the Turkish Embassy and mainly ethnic-Kurds demonstrators tried to reach the Elysee Palace but were pushed back.
“When it comes to saying why, the EU is not really capable of giving reasons,” Erdogan alleged, adding that Turkey was blocked on 35 policy areas in the negotiations.
“This is seriously exhausting us and seriously exhausting our nation. Maybe this will force us to take a decision,” Erdogan threatened.
But he added “we will not be the side which gives up” on membership talks.
Macron and Erdogan also discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, terrorism and the war in Syria. France and Turkey also signed defence, banking and commercial agreements, including the planned sale of 25 Airbus A330s to Turkish Airlines.
Macron said he raised the issues of media freedom and human rights, giving Erdogan a list of journalists and NGO employees he claimed were wrongly targeted during the post-coup arrests.
“For relations with the European Union, it is clear that recent developments and choices allow no progress in the process,” Macron said.
“We must get out of a hypocrisy that consists in thinking that a natural progression towards opening new chapters is possible. It’s not true.”
The aftermath of the July 2016 coup. Picture credit: Wikimedia