Ankara, September 15, 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency
The European Union and Turkey must maintain a close, open and constant dialogue to deal with common challenges, EU High Representative Federica Mogherini told the European Parliament on Sept. 13.
“Despite all difficulties, both Turkey and the European Union realize there are many interests we have in common and so much we share,” said Mogherini.
Commenting on the broad spectrum of issues that the EU and Turkey have to face, she referred to settlement talks on the divided island of Cyprus, the conflict in Syria, and the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), in addition to bilateral ties between Ankara and Brussels.
Mogherini repeated her condemnation of Turkey’s failed coup attempt of July 15, but she also urged Ankara to “commit strongly to the rule of law, protect media freedom, and guarantee everyone’s right to a fair trial.”
She drew particular attention to two issues where dialogue is particularly crucial: The Kurdish issue and the crisis in Syria.
“I have repeated very clearly that the European Union deems the [outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK a terrorist organization. We believe that all violence and terrorist attacks have to end, and arms should be laid down. At the same time, a credible political process should start,” she said.
During last week’s talks in Ankara, Mogherini and her Turkish counterparts agreed that there can be no military solution to the war in Syria, and that only a political transition can bring peace and democracy to the country, according to information posted on the EU’s website. They also agreed on the basic principles that should guide the future of Syria: The territorial integrity of the country, the unity of the country, the inclusion of all parts of the Syrian society, the protection of all minorities in an inclusive and non-sectarian state.
“We all know that Turkey is absolutely vital to ending the Syrian war,” Mogherini added, stressing that the current convergence between some of Turkey’s and the European Union’s positions on Syria was significant.
“For all these reasons, our relations cannot be limited to a single issue. In this sense, the accession negotiations provide an excellent framework for a broad dialogue on the entire spectrum of our cooperation,” she added.
She also urged the European Parliament to work hard to maintain a close and healthy dialogue with Turkey, and in particular with its civil society. “In the long term, it’s the only strategy that will pay off – both for Turkey and for our Union,” she said.
Mogherini was in Ankara on Sept 9, together with EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn, making the highest-level EU visit to Turkey since the failed coup attempt.
During talks the Ankara government proposed that the Council of Europe monitor Turkey’s anti-terror law, which is the key obstacle for the implementation of visa free travel for Turks to Europe.
Turkey has demanded the EU lay down a “concrete road map” for visa liberalization, following this proposal as an interim for the implementation of a migrant deal that includes a readmission agreement in return for visa liberalization.