Macron suggests ‘partnership’ with EU for Turkey, not membership

Ties between Turkey and Europe worsened last year amid mass arrests and firings carried out by Erdogan’s government following a July 2016 coup attempt.  Relations deteriorated further after authorities in several countries prevented Turkish ministers from holding political rallies to court expatriates’ votes in a referendum to expand the president’s powers.

Erdogan unleashed a series of insults at NATO allies, accusing European officials of racism, harboring terrorists and behaving like Nazis.

The Turkish president was less bombastic, but just as emphatic, on Friday while discussing his country’s decades-long pursuit of Europe’s acceptance.

“Unfortunately, we did the first steps in 1963. And it’s now been 54 years that Turkey has been waiting in the antechamber of the EU,” Erdogan said.

Macron said the two leaders held “frank” talks on Turkey’s bid for EU membership and the human rights situation in Turkey   a major sticking point.

“We should … see if we cannot rethink this relationship, not in the framework of the (EU) integration process, but perhaps a cooperation, a partnership,” he said, adding the main goal must be to keep Turkey   a NATO member   “anchored” in Europe and its “future … built looking toward Europe and with Europe.”

Macron and Erdogan also discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the fight against terror and the war in Syria. France and Turkish officials also signed defense, banking and commercial deals, including the planned sale of 25 Airbus A330s to Turkish Airlines.

The trip was Erdogan’s first to France since his government strongly cracked down on suspected opponents following a failed coup in July 2016. About 50,000 people have been arrested and 110,000 others removed from public sector jobs in Turkey. Many have protested they are innocent.

Protests over deteriorating press freedoms and human rights abuses in Turkey greeted Erdogan upon his arrival.

About 30 activists from Reporters without Borders held images of jailed journalists outside the Turkish Embassy. A dozen demonstrators, mainly ethnic Kurds, later tried to reach the presidential Elysee palace, but police pushed them back.

The French Communist Party and several left-wing parties have criticized Erdogan’s visit to France, which came the day before the fifth anniversary of the slayings in Paris of three Kurdish women activists.

“The French judicial system has pointed out Turkish secret services’ involvement in this crime,” the Communist Party said.

Macron said he raised the issues of media freedom and fundamental human rights with Erdogan, giving the Turkish leader a list of journalists and non-governmental workers he thinks were wrongly targeted during the post-coup crackdown.

“We will find concrete and real solutions that will allow the few cases to be settled, and to settle what has sometimes been a misunderstanding, a harmful misunderstanding,” Macron said.

Erdogan responded that some “columnists and opinion leaders are the gardeners of terrorism.”
While Erdogan traveled to Paris, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is scheduled to meet with German counterpart Sigmar Gabriel on Saturday.

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