Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday (21 November) urged the European Union and West to step up backing of Ankara’s fight against Kurdish militants, as he addressed a meeting of NATO lawmakers.
Erdoğan said he expected the support of NATO countries in Turkey’s fight against “all terror groups” including the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Islamic State (IS) jihadists and the group blamed by Ankara for the failed 15 July coup.
He called on the European Union to tighten its approach to the PKK, which Brussels designates as a terror group but whose members, according to Erdoğan, are allowed to roam freely within the bloc.
“Those who have a hesitant attitude against terrorist organisations will be hit themselves sooner or later,” he said in a speech to deputies at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.
Turkey has been a member of NATO since 1952 but its bid to join the European Union has been further set back by disputes over the magnitude of its crackdown in the wake of the coup.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg meanwhile emphasised the alliance’s “solidarity” with Turkey in the wake of the coup and said Ankara “has the right” to prosecute those responsible.
Some 110,000 people have been sacked or suspended in the civil service, army, judiciary and other institutions and 36,000 people jailed pending trial in the investigation of the abortive July 15 putsch, in which more than 240 people were killed.
Western allies, in particular in Europe, have voiced concern at the breadth of the purges under President Tayyip Erdoğan. Some European politicians have called for a freezing of Turkey’s EU membership talks, while a senior UN official on Friday (18 November) described the measures as “draconian” and “unjustified”.
Erdoğan has repeatedly rejected such criticism, saying Turkey is determined to root out its enemies at home and abroad, and could reintroduce the death penalty. He has accused Western nations of siding with the coup plotters and harbouring terrorists.
Pressed by a Dutch lawmaker to condemn the crackdown, Stoltenberg said he had told Turkish leaders all measures had to be taken within the rule of law.
He said he welcomed cooperation between Turkey and the Council of Europe over the legal measures after the coup, saying this should be an “important tool” to ensure the rule of law and human rights are applied.
Stoltenberg also made no reference to Turkish officers serving in NATO command posts who he had said last week had asked for asylum following the failed coup.
Meanwhile, he added he wanted to see “more assurance measures” from NATO states to help Turkey on its unstable borders, in addition to the current surveillance flights and deployment of missile batteries on the Syrian frontier.
Such measures may have help in mollifying the Turkish president, who, just last week accused NATO ally Belgium of being an important centre for supporters of both the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the cleric Ankara says orchestrated a failed July coup.
Erdoğan, speaking to reporters in Ankara before leaving on an official visit to Pakistan, also said he has showed German officials documentary proof that an organisation in Germany was collecting money for PKK militants.