Turkish government extends state of emergency rule for another 3 months

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan chairs a National Security Council meeting in Ankara, Turkey, July 17, 2017

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey on Monday extended emergency rule for another three months, almost a year after it was imposed in the wake of last July’s failed military coup.

The government asked parliament to extend it for a fourth time and the proposal was approved by the assembly, where President ‘s AK Party has a comfortable majority.

The extension followed weekend ceremonies to mark the anniversary of the abortive coup in which around 250 people, mostly unarmed civilians, were killed.

Since emergency rule was imposed on July 20 last year, more than 50,000 people have been arrested and 150,000 people have been suspended in a crackdown which Erdogan’s opponents say has pushed Turkey on a path to greater authoritarianism.

The government says the purge is necessary to confront security challenges facing Turkey and to root out supporters of the U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen who it says was behind the coup attempt. Gulen has denied any involvement.

Speaking at parliament, Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli said the emergency rule had helped created the necessary legal environment to cleanse the state of Gulen’s network.

“All of those in the state’s high levels have been dismissed, but there are still hidden people,” Canikli said. In a series of public ceremonies to mourn people killed in the coup attempt and celebrate those who thwarted it, Erdogan defiantly stepped up his condemnation of the European Union and said he would bring back the death penalty if parliament approved it.

Ties with the West were strained when European governments voiced alarm at the scale of the crackdown. Another 7,000 police, civil servants and academics were dismissed last week according to a decree published on Friday.


(Reporting by Orhan Coskun and Gulsen Solaker; Writing by Dominic Evans and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Ece Toksabay and Alison Williams)


Good atmosphere but nothing new in EU talks with Erdogan, sources say

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during a graduation ceremony at an Imam Hatip religious school association in Istanbul, Turkey, May 26, 2017.

By Gabriela Baczynska

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Talks last week between the heads of European Union institutions and Turkey’s president, Tayyip Erdogan, were held in a “good atmosphere” but produced no new agreements, officials in Brussels said, playing down comments by the Turkish leader.

Tensions between Turkey and the EU run high over rights and security issues, but the bloc depends on the help of NATO ally Ankara on migration and the conflict in Syria.

After meeting European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker last week in Brussels, Erdogan was quoted as saying he had been presented with a new 12-month timetable for renewing ties.

But senior EU officials voiced caution and some scepticism, saying no formal deadlines were set. The EU has a list of mid- and high-level meetings it hopes to hold with Turkey this year, they said, but any improvement in bilateral ties would depend on Erdogan’s resolving at least some of many points of contention.

They include the EU’s worry that Turkey’s anti-terror laws are too broad and used to persecute Erdogan critics, as demonstrated in Ankara’s sweeping security crackdown following a botched coup almost a year ago.

Other concerns relate to the treatment of the Kurds, the media and academics, as well as Erdogan moving to assume even more powers following an April referendum.

The pre-referendum campaign produced new spats with EU members Germany and the Netherlands, whose authorities Erdogan likened to Nazis when they had prevented Turkish politicians from campaigning in their countries.

Despite the often harsh rhetoric, senior EU officials said the atmosphere of the meeting was “good” and “constructive”.

“It was definitely not hostile, but both sides pretty much restated their well-known positions,” one of the sources said.

Turkey complains about slow progress in its stalled EU accession talks, discussions on visa-free travel for Turks to the EU and disbursement of EU funds to Syrian refugees living in Turkey.

The bloc says Erdogan must first address concerns over human rights and rule of law, and should work with the Council of Europe – a European rights watchdog of which Turkey is a member – on that..

The EU says progress in talks over reuniting the ethnically split Cyprus is also key to unlocking other area, including ideas to beef up an existing customs union between Turkey and the EU.

Erdogan has suggested Turkey could hold a referendum on continuing EU accession talks, and possibly another on reinstating the death penalty. Restoring capital punishment would end Turkey’s bid to join the EU.

EU leaders will discuss their ties and especially their cooperation with Turkey on migration when in Brussels on June 22-23. Calls from the European Parliament to formally halt Turkey’s accession talks have so far not reached critical mass.

“We have no choice,” one of the sources said when asked if the EU was looking to working more with Turkey after the top-level talks with Erdogan.

(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska, editing by Larry King)

Turkey may hit Netherlands with sanctions as ‘Nazi’ row escalates

People shout slogans during a protest in front of the Dutch Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey

By Tulay Karadeniz and Ercan Gurses

ANKARA (Reuters) – The Turkish cabinet was on Monday expected to consider imposing sanctions on the Netherlands in a deepening row with its NATO ally over a ban on its ministers speaking at political events in Rotterdam, and one minister said punitive measures were likely.

President Tayyip Erdogan, who is seeking support from Turks in a referendum on boosting his powers, has accused the Dutch government of acting like “Nazi remnants” and said it should face sanctions for barring his ministers from addressing expatriate Turks to drum up votes.

The row marks another low point in relations between Turkey and Europe, further dimming Ankara’s prospects of joining the bloc. It also comes as Turkey is caught up by security concerns over militant attacks and the war in neighboring Syria.

A source close to the government told Reuters that sanctions were expected to be discussed when the cabinet of ministers meets at 7 pm (1600 GMT). Ankara’s minister for EU Affairs, Omer Celik, said sanctions were likely.

“We will surely have sanctions against the latest actions by the Netherlands. We will answer them with these,” Celik said.

Apart from any economic measures, a source in Ankara said sanctions could affect cultural activities, and military and technological cooperation.

Turkey summoned the Dutch charge d’affaires on Monday to complain about the ban – imposed due to fears of unrest and distaste at what the Netherlands sees as an increasingly authoritarian tone from Erdogan – and the actions of Rotterdam police against Turkish protesters over the weekend, foreign ministry sources said.

On Sunday, Dutch police used dogs and water cannon to disperse hundreds of protesters waving Turkish flags outside the consulate in Rotterdam. Some protesters threw bottles and stones and several demonstrators were beaten by police with batons, a Reuters witness said. Mounted police officers charged the crowd.

“The Turkish community and our citizens were subject to bad treatment, with inhumane and humiliating methods used in disproportionate intervention against people exercising their right to peaceful assembly,” a statement attributed to ministry sources said.

The Dutch government barred Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu from flying to Rotterdam on Saturday and later stopped Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya from entering the Turkish consulate there, before escorting her back to Germany.

Protests then erupted in Turkey and the Netherlands. Several European countries, including Holland, have stopped Turkish politicians holding rallies, due to fears that tensions in Turkey might spill over into their expatriate communities.

Some 400,000 Turkish citizens live in the Netherlands and an estimated 1.5 million Turks live in Germany.

The Dutch government said the visits were undesirable and it would not cooperate in their campaigning. According to polls, it is set to lose about half its seats in elections this week as the anti-Islam party of Geert Wilders makes strong gains.

Monday was the third time the Dutch envoy had been called in since Saturday over the row. The Dutch ambassador is on leave and the Turkish foreign ministry says it does not want him back  “for some time”.


Dutch direct investment in Turkey amounts to $22 billion, making the Netherlands the biggest source of foreign investment with a share of 16 percent.

Ozgur Altug, chief economist at BGC Partners in Istanbul, said at this stage he did not foresee the row having serious short-term economic consequences.

“However, if the tension escalates and if countries start imposing sanctions against each other, it might have serious implications for the Turkish economy,” he said.

Turkish exports to the Netherlands totalled $3.6 billion in 2016, making it the tenth largest market for Turkish goods, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute. Turkey imported $3 billion worth of Dutch goods in 2016.

Dutch visitors are important to Turkey’s tourism industry, which was hit hard in 2016 by security fears due to attacks by Islamic State and Kurdish militants. Some 900,000 Dutch people visited Turkey last year, down from 1.2 million a year earlier.

A source close to the government told Reuters that sanctions, if imposed, may go beyond the economy.

“When the sanctions are imposed, what we need to be careful about is being realistic. We are not completely closing the windows,” the source said. “However, we want to show that what has been done to Turkey will have a response.”

He said certain cultural activities may be cancelled and the re-evaluation of military and technological cooperation was also on the table.

Ankara is seeking an official written apology for the treatment of its family minister and diplomats in Rotterdam,     the Turkish foreign ministry sources also said.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has said it is Erdogan who should apologize for comparing the Netherlands to fascists and Nazis, adding that Turkey was acting “in a totally unacceptable, irresponsible manner”.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called on Turkey and the Netherlands to defuse the row.

At the weekend, Erdogan dubbed the Netherlands “Nazi remnants” and said “Nazism is still widespread in the West”, comments echoed in Turkish media on Monday.

“Nazi Dogs,” said a front-page headline incorporating a swastika in the pro-government Aksam newspaper, above a photo of a police dog biting the thigh of a man during Saturday night’s protest in Rotterdam.

(Additional reporting by Ebru Tuncay in Istanbul and Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by David Dolan and Giles Elgood)

Turkey warns EU it is making ‘serious mistakes’ over failed coup

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu

By Ece Toksabay and Tuvan Gumrukcu

ANKARA/ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey said on Wednesday the European Union was fueled by anti-Turkish sentiment and hostility to President Tayyip Erdogan and was making grave mistakes in its response to a failed coup which was costing it the trust of ordinary Turks.

Erdogan and many Turks have been incensed by what they see as the undue concern of Europe over a crackdown after the abortive July 15 putsch but indifference to the bloody events themselves, in which more than 240 people were killed.

“Unfortunately the EU is making some serious mistakes. They have failed the test following the coup attempt … Their issue is anti-Turkey and anti-Erdogan sentiment,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told the state-run Anadolu Agency.

“We have worked very hard toward EU (membership) these past 15 years. We never begged, but we worked very hard … Now two out of three people are saying we should stop talks with the EU.”

More than 60,000 people in the military, judiciary, civil service and education have been detained, suspended or placed under investigation since the coup attempt, in which rogue soldiers commandeered tanks and warplanes to try to take power.

Dismissals continued at Turkey’s Scientific and Technological Research Council (Tubitak), which has now removed 560 staff, private broadcaster NTV said on Wednesday.

Some of Turkey’s European allies are concerned Erdogan, already seen as an authoritarian leader, is using the coup attempt as an excuse to further tighten his grip. Turkish officials dismiss such claims, saying the purges are justified by the gravity of the threat posed by the putsch.

Western allies are also watching Erdogan’s rapprochement with Russian President Vladimir Putin, concerned that both leaders may use their detente and chilled relations with the West to pressure Washington and the European Union.

Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern has said Europe needs to think again about Turkey’s possible EU membership.

“I am interested in a fundamental discussion,” he said on Wednesday in an interview with broadcaster ORF.

“That fundamental discussion is: Can we accept someone within the EU who does not adhere to democratic standards, who has difficulty with human rights, and who ignores humanitarian necessities and necessities regarding the rule of law?”

Turkey began EU accession talks in 2005 but has made scant progress despite an initial burst of reforms. Many EU states are not eager to see such a large, mostly Muslim country as a member, and are concerned that Ankara’s record on basic freedoms has gone into reverse in recent years.

In a return to combative form, Erdogan on Wednesday took aim at Turkey’s banks, saying they should not be charging high interest in the aftermath of the coup plot and promising to take action against lenders who “go the wrong way”.

Erdogan has repeatedly equated high interest rates with treason and called for lower borrowing costs to fuel growth, raising concern about the independence of the central bank.


Erdogan on Tuesday took a big step toward normalizing ties with Russia, meeting Putin in a visit to St Petersburg, his first foreign trip since the failed putsch.

Putin said Moscow would phase out sanctions against Ankara, imposed after the Turks shot down a Russian fighter jet near the Syrian border nine months ago, and that bringing ties to their pre-crisis level was the priority.

“We’re not mending relations with Russia to send a message to the West,” Minister Cavusoglu said. “If the West loses Turkey one day, it will not be because of Turkey’s relations with Russia, China, or the Islamic world, but rather because of themselves.”

Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told reporters in Ankara it was normal for Turkey to seek “other options” on defense cooperation as it had not received the expected support from its western friends and NATO allies following the failed coup.

NATO said on Wednesday that Turkey’s membership was not in question and that Ankara could count on its solidarity and support after the coup bid, which has triggered deep purges in the alliance’s second-largest armed forces.

Putin said on Tuesday Moscow would gradually phase out sanctions against Ankara, imposed after the Turks shot down a Russian fighter jet near the Syrian border nine months ago, and that bringing ties to their pre-crisis level was the priority.

Cavusoglu also indicated that Turkey could find common ground with Russia on Syria, where they have been on opposing sides of the conflict. Moscow backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey says he is a dictator who must be removed.

“We think similarly regarding the ceasefire, humanitarian aid and (the need for) political resolution in Syria,” Cavusoglu said, although he added the two may think differently on how to implement the ceasefire.

He said Turkey was building a “strong mechanism” with Russia to find a solution in Syria, and a delegation including the foreign ministry, military and intelligence officials would go to Russia on Wednesday for talks.

(Additional reporting by Francois Murphy in Vienna; Writing by Nick Tattersall and David Dolan; editing by Patrick Markey and Richard Balmforth)