Ankara, 9 September 2016
Thank you very much Mevlüt [Çavuşoğlu], Ömer [Çelik], all,
First of all, let me say – as the Ministers mentioned – it is exactly because Turkey is a candidate country and a very important partner for the European Union that it is so important to have these occasions of, as we call it, High Level Political Dialogue, but mainly a frank, open, constructive, respectful exchanges on all the issues that are so important for the Turkish people and for the European Union’s people.
For Commissioner Johannes Hahn, myself, on behalf of the European Union, this is a very important occasion, first of all to express our full solidarity and sympathy to the Turkish people, to the institutions of Turkey, the deepest respect for how the people of Turkey, the institutions came together – also involving the opposition – to defend their democracy against the attempted coup.
I was myself I think the first in those dramatic hours to communicate publicly the need to strongly defend and support democratically elected institutions of the country. Because for the European Union one thing is and will always be absolutely clear: in our world and even more so in our region, in the European territory, there is no space for any attempt of military coup whatsoever. So our support to reaction that the Turkish institutions altogether and the Turkish people had in the very first minutes was the strongest possible one.
And it was very important for us that we not only expressed our support today to the legitimate and democratically elected institutions and people of Turkey, we will in the afternoon visit the Parliament and meet with all the political parties. We also had a very in-depth discussion on how to make sure that defending democracy is done and is pursued with the full commitment to democracy, human rights and rule of law, as the Ministers mentioned and we appreciate in particular the cooperation we can have with the Council of Europe in this respect. I am obviously in constant contact with Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland, but also with the Estonian Presidency of the Council of Ministers, I talked to the Foreign Minister just before travelling here on how we can accompany this reflection, that is a complicated one but something that is for us absolutely essential.
The main message of our meeting today that was a very positive one is, first of all, a strong recommitment to dialogue and common work on all strands of our cooperation.
Work has never stopped. Work has kept going on all different files we have in our bilateral relations, but also now on policy and regional cooperation, and work will continue with this approach of looking forward, being constructive and being concentrated on what are the common challenges and the common interests of our people. We share a very complicated geopolitical position, we share a set of challenges, but also we have some common interests that we can pursue together.
So we decided that our work will go on in all fields in a very constructive way: on visa liberalisation, on the upgrade of customs union, and including also on our support to Turkey in its efforts in welcoming a huge number of Syrian refugees, in particular focusing on the education of children.
We have also tackled some of the issues that are of concern and central for the European Union, that we also had the chance to discuss with Minister Çelik exactly one week ago in Bratislava with all the 28 European Union Member States – issues, as I said, related to rule of law and in particular the way forward how we can work together in this field.
We also discussed at length, as the Minister mentioned, the Kurdish issue: we, in the European Union and in each and every of our Member States, consider the PKK as a terrorist organisation. Significant action has been taken against the PKK in the European Union and its Member States in the recent years and months. We believe all violence and terrorist attacks have to be stopped, and arms laid down and a political process started. And the European Union obviously will be ready to accompany this process.
We had a very intense exchange also on all bilateral issues. On some of them Commissioner Hahn will go more in details. I could say that the key element on which we agreed to work, our common guidelines, is that we talk more to each other and a little bit less about each other, showing full respect, reciprocal respect, being absolutely clear on what we agree on and what could be elements where we need to discuss more, and most of all in a constructive way, always.
We also discussed the situation in Syria: we agreed that there is no military solution to the conflict in Syria, that only a political solution with the transition will bring peace to the country. We agreed that we can work together trying to achieve a cease-fire in the near future, we agreed on the basic principles that should guide the future of Syria: the territorial integrity of the country, the unity of the country, the inclusion of all parts of society in Syria, the protection of all minorities, the constitution of a non-sectarian country. We will continue to work together in this respect, with Minister Çavuşoğlu in particular, we will have further occasions to meet in the near future and discuss ways in which the European Union and Turkey can work together to try and facilitate the solution for the Syrian conflict.
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Questions and Answers
On visa liberalisation and your question: President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the European Union Presidents Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker had a very constructive exchange at the margins of the G20 in China on this.
I would like to say a word on the issue of Cyprus because we discussed this at length during the meeting today and I believe and I can say that the European Union and Turkey have a common interest in seeing the Cyprus issue solved.
We both can contribute enormously to this solution, we both want this to happen and I believe that we both believe that this could happen now in the near future. So this is why maybe this expectation was somehow raised in this framework, because indeed we see a window of more than hope for this issue to be solved in a proper way in the coming months.
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