Council of Europe chief says Europe understood Turkey ‘too little’

Council of Europe chief says Europe understood Turkey ‘too little’

Council of Europe chief says Europe understood Turkey ‘too little’

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There has been “too little understanding” from Europe about the challenges facing Turkey in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt on July 15, the head of the Council of Europe (CoE), the continent’s top human rights organization, said Aug. 3.

“I would like to say there has been too little understanding from Europe over what challenges this has caused to the democratic and state institutions of Turkey,” CoE Secretary-General Thorbjorn Jagland was quoted as saying by Agence France-Presse, referring to a group of U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen’s supporters in the military who are accused of conducting the failed coup. 

Jagland was the first high-ranking European official to visit Turkey after the attempted coup which left more than 250 people dead.

“We, however, have been informed about it for a very long time. So therefore of course we see a need for a cleaning up all of this,” Jagland said, speaking alongside Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu in a joint press conference in Ankara on Aug. 3. 

Turkey has conducted a sweeping crackdown on those suspected of supporting Gülen’s movement, which runs schools, charities and businesses across the world. Tens of thousands of people in Turkey have been dismissed or suspended from their jobs in the civil service, education, health, judiciary, the military and media sectors, while around 18,000 have been detained or arrested, mostly in the military.

“But it is also very important that this is being done in conformity with [European] law, and standards of the European Convention of Human Rights and the case law of the Court of Human Rights, which is a very good guide,” he said. 

Turkey temporarily suspended the implementation of its obligations emanating from the European Convention on Human Rights for as long as the state of emergency remains in force.

Stating that Turkey “is such an important European country,” Jagland said, “It is important that we do all that we can to help Turkey get through this process.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has blasted Western allies for what he says is a lack of clear support for the government in the wake of the failed coup. On Aug. 2, he accused the West of siding with terrorism and complained that no European leaders had visited Turkey to express support after the coup.

The government is seeking the extradition of Gülen, who is a former Erdoğan ally, from the U.S., where he lives in self-exile. Gülen is accused of forming a terrorist organization called the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ). 

For his part, Çavuşoğlu said Turkey had never forgotten its commitments to the CoE. 

“We have never made compromises on our understanding of democracy and will never do so,” Çavuşoğlu said, calling on the EU, European media and states “to give up on their wrong approach” and “be objective, balanced and honest.”

After the joint press conference, Çavuşoğlu said via Twitter that he hoped that the solidarity shown by Jagland would set an example for “our other European friends.”

“We act in accordance with rule of law and our international obligations while taking measures against FETÖ. We are open to criticism made in a spirit of goodwill and honesty. Yet there are biased accusations from Europe. Europe should realize how it is moving away from its own values as it excludes Turkey. A Europe without Turkey is incomplete and weak,” Çavuşoğlu tweeted Aug. 3.