Turkish PM warns EU against 'stigmatizing Muslims'

Turkish PM warns EU against 'stigmatizing Muslims'

BRUSSELS - Agence France-Presse
Turkish PM warns EU against stigmatizing Muslims

European Council President Donald Tusk (R) shakes hands with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmed Davutoğlu prior to their meeting at the European Council in Brussels on Jan. 15. AFP Photo

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told the European Union on Jan 15 they shared many values, including freedom of speech, but warned against "stigmatizing Muslims" in the fallout from the Paris Islamist attacks.

Davutoğlu noted after meeting European Union President Donald Tusk that he had been in Paris at the weekend to take part in the Charlie Hebdo solidarity march.

"We were together shoulder to shoulder against terrorism and again here I want to express our condolences and solidarity with the French people," he said.

"We don't want to see any extremist approach, in this (case a) terrorist attack" in Europe which has been and should remain multicultural, he said.

But that also worked the other way, he said, warning of the danger posed by "an exclusivist approach against Muslims," as seen in the emergence of the far-right PEGIDA anti-Islam group in Germany.

For his part, Tusk said the Paris attacks only increased the EU's determination to "defend our fundamental values, including freedom of thought, expression and of the media."       

"We might have differences of opinion on the cartoons of Charlie Hebdo. I am sure that some in the EU also disagree with what they say. But we will defend their right to say so. For Europe this is a question of fundamental values,"he said.

Tusk said that in view of the Paris killings, "we agreed that we should intensify our counter-terrorism dialogue, including to address the threat of ISIL," the extreme Jihadist group which has gained control of large areas of Syria and Iraq.

Turkey is a key country in the struggle to contain Islamic State which has attracted many foreign fighters to its ranks, including up to 5,000 from Europe whose return home, radicalized and well-trained, is feared by EU governments.

EU-Turkey relations have been increasingly strained in recent months as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has rounded on domestic media and critics.

In December, the EU took a notably harder line on Turkey's membership bid as a result, only for Erdogan to bluntly warn the bloc to mind its own business.

The accession talks have made painfully slow progress since they began in 2005, a fact much regretted by Davutoğlu.

Tusk said the "accession process remains the main framework of our relations" but he also stressed that Turkey had to meet the conditions set for opening new negotiating chapters.