Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan arrives in the Bulgarian port city of Varna today (26 March) equipped with video footage that allegedly illustrates Ankara’s claim that EU countries host terrorists and do nothing to fight them.
A ‘leaders’ meeting’ between the presidents of the EU Council, Commission and Turkey, Donald Tusk, Jean-Claude Juncker and Erdoğan, respectively, hosted by Bulgarian PM Boyko Borissov, takes place tomorrow in Varna. Bulgaria currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU.
Bulgarian national channel bTV quoted Turkish media that reported Erdoğan will show Tusk, Juncker and Borissov, footage from demonstrations in EU countries, which aims to illustrate Ankara’s claims that the EU offers a haven for “terrorists”, such as Kurdish organisations and supporters to preacher Fetullah Gülen.
“The west is trying to teach us lessons, to give us advice, leave them for yourselves. I have video footage about everything. Tomorrow we will be together in Varna, I’m prepared and I will show them everything. We will be unyielding, we will make no compromise”, Erdoğan told a conference of his AKP party in Trabzon, as quoted by the BGNES news agency.
President Erdoğan speaks at AK Party’s Provincial Congress in Trabzon pic.twitter.com/BxOZ8XapDs
— Turkish Presidency (@trpresidency) March 25, 2018
Turkey and the EU differ on the definition on terrorism. Ankara calls terrorists all those perceived as enemies of Erdoğan’s regime.
If indeed this would be Erdoğan’s main message, it is unlikely that tomorrow’s meeting will make any headway.
Turkey is conducting an “anti-terrorist” operation in Syria called “Olive branch”. In a non-binding resolution, the European Parliament called on Turkey to remove its troops from Afrin, where Ankara is targeting the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia in an offensive launched nearly two months ago.
Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist organisation that is a Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade conflict against the Turkish state. The PKK is considered a terrorist organisation by the EU and the United States, as well as by Turkey.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has sharply criticised Turkey’s military offensive in Afrin.
Speaking in the Bundestag on 21 March she said that Turkey’s actions were unacceptable despite its security interests. “I’m also condemning this in the strongest terms”, Merkel stated.
Ankara is also asking EU countries to extradite so-called ‘Gülenists’, as terrorists responsible for the failed July 2016 coup.
The Islamic preacher, despite having not set foot in Turkey since 1999, built up a network of supporters in the media, judicial system and police as well as running a successful system of private schools.
Gülen and his supporters, however, deny any link to the coup bid and insist they are victims of a witch hunt.
Turkish police yesterday detained seven students from a prestigious Istanbul university. Erdoğan accused them of behaving like “terrorists” for staging an action opposing his military campaign in Syria.
Police stormed a students’ dormitory and a house at Bogazici University around dawn Sunday and detained three students – two men and one woman, lawyer Inayet Aksu told AFP.
— Turkey Purge (@TurkeyPurge) March 25, 2018
With the latest detentions, the number of students being held by the police rose to seven, he added.
#Erdogan calls protesting #Bogazici University students as communists, traitors and terrorists whom his gov't would deprive them the right to study at universities in #Turkey. pic.twitter.com/oAlvxeGr2c
— Abdullah Bozkurt (@abdbozkurt) March 24, 2018
A group of students this week opened a stand handing out sweets or Turkish delight they had dubbed “Afrin delight” in memory of the fallen soldiers in the army’s almost two-month operation to capture the city from a Syrian Kurdish militia force.
In a show of protest, another group of students unfurled anti-war banners.
Aksu told AFP the detentions began on Thursday, based on the video recordings.
“An (anti-war) expression could disturb certain quarters but it cannot be considered a crime under the Turkish penal code,” he said.
In his blistering attack, Erdoğan labelled the anti-war students as “communists” and “terrorists” and the other group as “believers”.
Kati Piri, the European Parliament’s Turkey rapporteur, took to Twitter to protest Erdoğan’s latest salvo targeting anti-war students.
“Anti-war protesters labelled ‘terrorists’ by President Erdoğan. Critical thinking dangerous endeavour in ‘new Turkey’,” she wrote.