UK PM May calls on Turkey’s Erdoğan not to lose sight of democratic values
LONDON – Reuters
Prime Minister Theresa May has called on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan not to go too far in his stance on those believed to be behind a failed 2016 coup attempt, speaking after a meeting in London marked by human rights protests.
Rights campaigners have accused May of turning a blind eye to human rights abuses in pursuit of trade deals after Brexit.
In Turkey’s case they point to the jailing tens of thousands of people after the attempted coup. The Turkish government has said its actions are necessary to combat the threat it faces following the coup attempt in July 2016.
May said Britain’s relationship with Turkey was indispensable, praising the impact of security cooperation and the prospect of close post-Brexit trade ties.
But she added a diplomatic warning on the need for restraint.
“It is right that those who sought to overthrow the democratically elected government are brought to justice,” May said, speaking alongside Erdoğan in her Downing Street office following their meeting.
“But it is also important that in the defense of democracy, which has been facing extraordinary pressures from the failed coup, instability across the border from Syria and from Kurdish terrorism, Turkey does not lose sight of the values it is seeking to defend.”
She said she had underlined the need for Turkey to uphold democratic values and its human rights obligations.
Erdoğan’s visit is part of May’s charm offensive to shore up relations with countries outside the European Union as Britain prepares to leave the bloc and secure at least the promise of future trade deals to bolster her all but stalled Brexit plans.
Last year, May secured a commitment for Britain and Turkey to work on post-Brexit trade.
Speaking on May 15, Erdoğan welcomed a transition deal agreed between London and the EU to ease Britain’s departure from the bloc.
He said the two leaders had agreed trade could be increased to $20 billion annually, up from the 2017 level of around 16 billion.
Ties between the EU and Turkey are increasingly strained, with Brussels saying that Erdoğan is leading his country away from the path to membership, while some Turkish officials say they feel betrayed by some of the bloc’s leaders.