In the weeks that have followed the failed coup in Turkey, authorities have cracked down on who they think are followers of the movement that allegedly planned the rebellion.
More than 15,000 people have been arrested and many tens of thousands more sacked. The government also announced that the death penalty might be reinstated in order to deal with the coup plotters.
The international community has observed those developments with a sceptical eye and called on Turkey’s President to respect the rule of law and human rights.
In his first interview with a Western news organisation since the coup, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan responded in an interview with French newspaper Le Monde, saying the West was “contradicting the values it is defending.”
He went on to explain that the West should show solidarity with Turkey, which has taken on Western democratic values. “Unfortunately it left the Turks alone. Westerners should not worry about the number of people arrested or sacked,” Erdogan said, as a state has the right to employ and fire whomever it sees fit. He added that Turkey has never asked its Western partners those types of questions.
Erdogan explained that although some world leaders called him during the coup, to him, that was not enough. He said he would have liked them to react and condemn the coup more strongly and that he would have like them to come to Turkey. “Instead of showing empathy, Western leaders had the opposite reaction. That’s unacceptable,” he said.
He gave as an example the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Erdogan said the whole world had reacted then and that Turkey’s prime minister had gone to Paris to take part in a march mourning of the murdered cartoonists.
Comparing Russian President Vladimir Putin to European and American leaders, Erdogan said the former did not ask him about the number of people detained when he called him about the coup unlike his Western counterparts.
Erdogan had started lashing out at Western leader last week when he claimed that they supported terrorists and coup plotters.
“Those who we imagined to be friends are standing by the coup plotters and by the terrorists,” Erdogan had said in a televised speech at his presidential palace. “This coup attempt has actors inside Turkey, but its script was written outside.”
People wave Turkey’s national flags during the Democracy and Martyrs Rally, organised by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and supported by ruling AK Party (AKP), oppositions Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), to protest against last month’s failed military coup attempt, in Istanbul, Turkey, August 7, 2016.
The death penalty, the European Union, and refugees
After blasting the West’s answer to the coup, Erdogan criticised the European Union, saying the country had been at the “doors” of Europe for 53 years and that no other country had been treated this way.
In the interview, Erdogan hinted again that Turkey’s migration agreement with the EU may collapse if the EU did not keep its side of the deal on visa waivers. “The European Union is not behaving in a sincere manner with Turkey,” Erdogan said, “If our demands are not satisfied then the readmissions will no longer be possible.”
In a new deal between the EU and Turkey that was struck in March, Ankara accepted to stop migrants from crossing into Greece and to have some refugees returned to them in exchange for more financial aid, the promise of visa-free travel to the EU and revived membership talks.
However, the reciprocal visa-free access has been delayed due to a dispute over Turkish anti-terrorism legislation, concern about the scale of Ankara’s post-coup crackdown and the potential for the death penalty to be reinstated.
Erdogan positioned Turkey as a country open to refugees, claiming that if the war in Syria brought on a new wave of refugees, they would accept them:
“We do not have the same approach as the Europeans, we know those people are fleeing bombs, our humanist sentiment and religion pushes us to open our doors to them. We’ve already welcomed three million refugees, we’ll welcome one million more.”
Last week, Turkish Foreign Minster Mevlut Cavusoglu had already echoed Erdogan’s hard stance against Western leaders and called Austria the “capital of radical racism” after Chancellor Christian Kern suggested ending European Union accession talks with Ankara.
European leaders, including the head of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have made clear that if Turkey was to reinstate the death penalty that there would be no more reasons to continue any accession talks.
Turkey on the other hand does not seem bothered by those threats and Erdogan said that if the Turkish people wanted that change and the Parliament accepted it, that they would not care about what anyone thought of it.
Extraditions and the US
In Le Monde, Erdogan also reiterated his call to the United States to extradite Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who has been living in exile in Pennsylvania since 1999 and who Erdogan accuses of being behind the coup.
He accuses Barack Obama of not respecting their strategic partnership by refusing to extradite him and claims that whenever the US asks them to extradite terrorists they comply with their demands.
“I’m calling on the United States: what kind of strategic partners are we, that you can still host someone whose extradition I have asked for?” Erdogan said in a speech last week.
When talking about John Kerry’s visit to the country on August 24, Erdogan said “It’s late, too late. We’re very sad. What else do Americans need? When their strategic partner is faced with a coup attempt, they wait 45 days to visit. This hurts us.”
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