UK wants Turkey as part of European family: Lord Alex Carlile
İpek Yezdani – ISTANBUL
If Turkey’s economic relations with Russia lead it to change its strategic alliance then this would be of concern to NATO, Alex Carlile, a member of the British House of Lords, has told daily Hurriyet, stressing that Ankara is “part of the European family.”
“I would very much like to see Turkey as a member of the EU. To me Turkey is part of the West. Most British people want to have Turkey as part of the European family rather than a member of the Russian family,” Lord Carlile said.
He was visiting Turkey to meet with high-ranking Turkish officials last week as part of a bid to improve bilateral relations between Britain and Turkey.
Speaking to reporters at the Bosphorus Center for Global Affairs in Istanbul, Lord Carlile drew attention to burgeoning relations between Russia and Turkey, particularly regarding gas and energy generation.
“If Turkey is simply trading with Russia, such as building nuclear power station, then that’s an economic decision and should not worry us at all. The decision to purchase defense equipment including aircrafts from Russia is a more difficult question to answer. But if the Americans, who otherwise would be supplying the equipment, are not prepared to supply the equipment, then it is probably also a legitimate economic decision,” he added.
“But if a consequence of economic decisions is a change of alliance, that’s a political decision. And that at the moment is what is worrying NATO countries and other countries that are basically allied to NATO,” Lord Carlile said.
Saying he would “like to think that Turkey’s place is in the West,” he added that “this has been complicated by the EU question over many years. And I do understand Turkey’s frustration with the EU.”
Lord Carlile also touched on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is recognized as terrorist organization by the U.K., Turkey, the U.S. and the EU.
“The PKK is a banned organization in the U.K. because it is a terrorist organization. That being the case, under the role of international laws and treaties applicable to such organizations, if there are PKK people operating in the U.K. they should be prosecuted in the U.K. for being members of a banned organization,” he said.
As for Turkey’s ongoing operation in the northern Syrian district of Afrin against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey sees as an extension of the PKK, Lord Carlile stressed that “what Turkey does in relation to the PKK should be done within the rules of international law.”
“I don’t think there is any kind of ban on attacking a terrorist organization outside the country. The other country might have strong views about you doing it there and that may raise international law issues but that’s a matter between Turkey and the country concerned,” he said.
Regarding the British citizen Anna Campbell who died fighting alongside the YPG in Syria, killed during the Turkish forces’ bombardment in Afrin, Lord Carlile said: “When people like her become involved in terrorist organizations they know perfectly well that run the risk of being killed in those actions, I am afraid it is part of the consequences of being that part of activity.”
He also touched on the question of judicial independence and lengthy trial processes in Turkey, saying recent developments contradicted with Ankara’s obligations as part of the Council of Europe.
“People being arrested and imprisoned for long periods without a proper trial is unacceptable, not only within the Turkish Constitution but also because the Turkish Constitution necessarily involves its presence as part of the Council of Europe,” Lord Carlile said.
Noting that the July 2016 coup attempt was followed by a wave of arrests, he stressed that the state must “make sure to determine who is innocent and who is not before imprisoning them.”
“Once the innocence of the accused is proven, the state has to then ensure that those innocently caught in the crossfire are able to achieve their freedom and go back to their normal jobs as quickly as possible,” he said, referring to thousands of civilians dismissed from their jobs since the coup attempt.
“To give an example, if a government chooses to arrest five people, there is a pretty high chance that all these five people are guilty. Although they must be treated fairly, the margin for error is quite small. But if 5,000 people are arrested, there is a very high chance that significant proportion of them are completely innocent. The more you arrest, the more innocent people there are going to be, just like any crime,” Lord Carlile added.