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Turkey referendum: Merkel calls for talks, France warns on death penalty

LiveMint logoLiveMint 17-04-2017 Elisabeth Behrmann

Munich: German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Turkish leaders should open talks with opponents and the European Union after a narrow referendum victory while the French government urged President Recep Tayyip Erdogan not to use the result to bring back capital punishment.

Merkel said both Germany and the EU will be seeking guidance from Erdogan on the consequences of the vote while calling on the Turkish leader to act with “responsibility.” Emmanuel Macron, the front-runner to become France’s next president next month, said he sees no prospect of Turkey’s EU membership bid advancing in the near future.

Erdogan on Sunday won support from 51.4% of Turks for a package of constitutional changes that increase the powers of his office and his supporters are demanding he use the result to bring back the death penalty. The Council of Europe, which Turkey belongs to, raised concerns that the changes may weaken checks and balances on the president.

“There need to be talks about these issues as soon as possible with Turkey on a bilateral basis, as well as between Turkey and European institutions,” Merkel and German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel said Monday in a joint statement. The tight outcome “means the Turkish government and President Erdogan personally need to take on a great responsibility,” they said.

ALSO READ: Turkey opposition wants referendum result annulled

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s head of mission, Tana de Zulueta, said Monday that some of Erdogan’s opponents were subjected to police pressure during the campaign and that freedom of expression was restricted, leading to an “unlevel playing field.”

The French foreign ministry called on Turkey to respect the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits capital punishment, and said it would be assessing the OSCE’s conclusions. The ministry also echoed Germany’s call for Erdogan to open up dialogue with opposition groups within Turkey.

EU membership

Belgian foreign minister Didier Reynders said bringing back the death penalty would end Turkey’s chances of joining the EU, in comments reported by Agence Belga. Macron, battling to hang on to his advantage before the first round of France’s presidential election on Sunday, said he sees little chance of Turkey’s candidacy succeeding in any case.

“There will be no advance in Turkey’s EU membership in coming years,” Macron said in an interview with RMC radio.

In a separate newspaper interview, Germany’s Gabriel echoed those views on capital punishment, while insisting that the referendum wouldn’t necessarily stop Turkey from joining the bloc. “Becoming a member is up to Turkey, and there aren’t any decisions due to be taken for a long time in any case,” he told Bild. “Drifting even further away from the EU isn’t in Turkey’s interests.”

EU rapporteur on Turkey Kati Piri, the lawmaker tracking developments in Turkey for the EU parliament, said before the result that the constitutional changes proposed would lead to the 28-nation bloc breaking off talks on Turkey’s accession if they were implemented without revisions and suggested the vote hadn’t given a fair chance to Erdogan’s opponents.

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, also commenting before the result, said he would also analyze the independent observers’ assessment of the referendum and that the result will shape the EU’s approach to Turkish membership talks.Bloomberg

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