CHP leader defiant in EU socialists row

CHP leader defiant in EU socialists row

CHP leader defiant in EU socialists row

Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kılıçdaroğlu(L), Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats head Swoboda speak to reporters in Brussels. AA photo

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu stood behind his statements and decision to cancel a meeting with the head of the European Parliament’s Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) on May 16, a day after a row with the group.

“We have never supported an oppressive regime. I would never meet with someone who restricts freedom of expression,” Kılıçdaroğlu said yesterday in a press conference in Ankara, after telling a group of Turkish reporters a day before in Brussels that there was very little difference between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in terms of democracy. “Between al-Assad and Erdoğan, there is only a difference of shades,” Kılıçdaroğlu had said.

‘Erdoğan is a dictator’

“Erdoğan gave the command to warplanes to kill 34 citizens in Uludere,” Kılıçdaroğlu said in reference to a military strike in southeast Turkey in 2011. “Al-Assad gives the same commands to its military. He also bombs his people. So how would you call such a person? A dictator.”

Criticizing CHP’s Syria policy, S&D head Hannes Swoboda told the EU Turkey news network that “Erdoğan cannot be compared to al-Assad who continues war and terror against the Syrian people.”

“The comparison of a dictator who murders civilians to Erdoğan is against the principles that we defend,” Swoboda said. “It is impossible for us to accept Kılıçdaroğlu’s al-Assad-Erdoğan comparison in front of our logo.”

Backing Swoboda’s statements, Dimitris Komodromos from the S&D Press Office told the Hürriyet Daily News that they had demanded that the CHP retract Kılıçdaroğlu’s statement. “Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu compared Erdoğan to al-Assad. He said it before the group’s logo,” Komodromos said.

“We made a written qualification and told the CHP that this was unacceptable and to withdraw the statement. The CHP said ‘yes’ at the beginning to overcome the crisis, and we agreed to put out a press release. But when they refused to do so at the start of the Swoboda-Kılıçdaroğlu meeting in the afternoon, Mr. Swoboda canceled the meeting,” he said.

However, the CHP said the meeting was canceled by Kılıçdaroğlu.

‘CHP given the treatment they deserve’

CHP Deputy Chair Umut Oran said Swoboda asked Kılıçdaroğlu to withdraw his statement about Erdoğan before the second meeting. “Swoboda transmitted to us his discomfort. He made a statement before our meeting. But the statement was to be made after the meeting. Kılıçdaroğlu was upset about Swoboda’s attitude of taking Erdoğan’s defense and decided that there was need for a meeting,” Oran told daily Hürriyet.

For his part, CHP deputy leader Faruk Loğoglu chided Swoboda, arguing that his comments did not accord with freedom of expression. “Freedom of expression should be respected by everyone, including Swoboda,” Loğoğlu said. But Komodromos responded to the CHP’s statements regarding freedom of expression, saying such arguments were not valid when such statements are made in front of a group’s logo on behalf of them.

Meanwhile, Turkish EU Minister Egemen Bağış said the main opposition leader had “degraded” himself and his party.

“Should any Turkish politician find himself in such a situation abroad, I would not accept it but great minds think alike. Now even Europeans say ‘It’s the CHP.’ We can see that the CHP is treated like it deserves to be,” he said from Washington where he is accompanying Erdoğan during a visit to the U.S. “The air of Brussels [was not beneficial] for Kılıçdaroğlu. There is democracy and freedom there,” he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay also criticized the CHP for “speaking against Turkey,” according to Anatolia news agency. “The main opposition party leader and members’ duty is to speak against Turkey there. He equals his prime minister to Syria’s president, one of the world’s biggest tyrants now who oppresses his own people. We have such an opposition leader because he works with al-Assad. His deputies go pose with that dictator, they cooperate,” he said.