EU ‘Extremely Worried’ by Turkey’s Arrests of Kurd Leaders

Lawmakers and officials of the Pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) attend a news conference in Istanbul, Turkey November 4, 2016. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

BRUSSELS – The European Union is “extremely worried” by Turkey’s arrest of Kurdish opposition lawmakers and has called a meeting of EU national envoys in Ankara, the bloc’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini tweeted on Friday.

“Extremely worried for arrest of (Selahattin Demirtas) and other (HDP) MPs,” she said. “In contact with authorities. Called EU ambassadors meeting in Ankara.”

Police raided the homes and detained the joint leaders of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the second-biggest opposition party in the national parliament, and nine other HDP lawmakers early on Friday after they refused to give testimony for crimes linked to “terrorist propaganda”.

Police raided the Ankara house of Figen Yuksekdag, HDP co-chairwoman, and of Demirtas, the other party leader, in Diyarbakir, a party spokeswoman told Reuters. A court official said the prosecutor was seeking Demirtas’ formal arrest and that both he and Yuksekdag were in court after police questioning.

The EU is engaged in a delicate stage of its relationship with its big, Muslim neighbour. Since an agreement in March, Turkey has helped to all but end a flow of refugees and migrants to the EU via Greece after a million people arrived last year.

In return, the EU is providing aid for Syrian refugees in Turkey, has pledged to revive Ankara’s long-stalled membership talks with the bloc and, significantly, promised to ease travel visa terms for Turks visiting Europe.

This latter concession, long on the table, has been delayed by disputes over whether Turkey has met a set of requirements that include modifying anti-terrorism laws. Turkey’s security crackdown after a coup attempt in July has alarmed EU leaders and further pushed back a final deal on the visa liberalisation.

With major elections looming over the next year in the Netherlands, France and Germany, where anti-immigration parties are doing well and oppose easing visas for Turks, diplomats say that Brussels is in no hurry to push Turkey into meeting the requirements to complete the deal — especially since the flow of migrants remains at limited, manageable levels.

However, there is concern in Brussels that hardline tactics in Ankara could generate reactions that destabilise a state which the EU sees a buffer between it and the Middle East.

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