Ankara, 22 November 2018
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Thank you, Mevlüt [Çavuşoğlu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey]. Indeed, we had a positive, constructive, fruitful, honest and open meeting in a very good atmosphere. And let me thank you and your team for hosting this [High-Level Political] Dialogue today in Ankara, and for inviting us here again.
Turkey, as you said, is a Candidate Country and is also the key strategic partner for the European Union. The European Union-Turkey relations are extremely important not only for the European Union and for Turkey, but also very important for our region and I would say for global foreign policy at large. Today's meeting and the intense agenda that we have had and that we will continue to have over our working lunch reflects the importance of these relations.
We have discussed in a very constructive manner, in a very open manner, issues on which we see eye to eye - they are many, in different fields - and also issues where we have different views. I would like to, first of all, use this opportunity to publicly commend Turkey and President [of Turkey, Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan personally for the key role that they have played in negotiating and implementing the Sochi Memorandum [on Stabilisation of the Situation in] Idlib [De-escalation Area].
We will talk about our common work on Syria in the next session of the Dialogue, but I want to say already now that this Memorandum and its implementation are key to help avoiding a huge humanitarian crisis and also to open the political perspective for a solution of the crisis. I would therefore like to start by this public recognition of the role that Turkey is having in that context.
And I would also like to underline that the European Union has great respect and willingness to continue to fully support Turkey's unprecedented efforts in hosting and addressing the needs of more than 4 million refugees out of which 3.5 million are Syrian people. We will go deeper in all the foreign and regional issues later, but I wanted to start with these two points, because our partnership and cooperation are crucial when you look at people's lives in our common region and also are crucial to our common strategic interests to stabilise and bring peace to a troubled region that we share.
In today's volatile context, our regular dialogues, our cooperation are indispensable: on Syria but also on Iraq, on Iran, on the Middle East peace process, on the Balkans, on Libya, on the tensions across the Gulf. We decided to work already today for a closer alignment of our positions on all foreign and regional issues and for a closer cooperation. And that would benefit not only the interests of our citizens, but also the entire region and the world.
We can only salute and commend the decision that the Turkish government took to work to intensify relations with the European Union. We have seen the recent statements also in the context of the Reform Action Group that will meet again in early December and I want to be very clear on this: The European Union wants a strong Turkey and wants a strong cooperation. This is our objective and this is what we are together working for. We want Turkey to be stable, prosperous and democratic - a neighbor we can work with hand-in-hand in a region of strategic importance for both of us and in a very complex geopolitical context. We are partners - we are partners for security; partners in the fight against terrorism; partners for peace stability in the region.
A stronger Turkey also means a democratic Turkey based on the rule of law, an independent and professional judiciary and full respect of the fundamental freedoms. Turkey is a founding member of the Council of Europe, an organisation - by the way - where Mevlüt [Çavuşoğlu] and I used to serve many years ago together. And I think Turkey needs to be a proud founding member of the Council of Europe. We value enormously the cooperation between Turkey and the Council of Europe and its bodies and we believe that this is going to be key also for the overall developments or our relations. Turkey will be stronger, in our views, with a healthy, united Turkish society, free media, a systematic, open dialogue between the civil society and the decision makers.
We have expressed our strong concerns about the detention of several prominent academics and civil society representatives, including recently. The principle of presumption of innocence is a pillar of our European values, as is the application of pre-trial detention in line with the European Convention on Human Rights.
I am - we are all - very much aware of the marks left by the attempted coup in Turkey more than two years ago. The state of emergency is now behind us and I dare to hope that soon all related measures will be something of the past. The European Court of Human Rights this week ruled that the extended detention of Mr. [Selahattin] Demirtaş [Turkish-Kuridsh politician] violated the Human Rights Convention and ordered the termination of his pre-trial detention. We hope he will be released shortly and that similar cases will be dealt with soon.
Today's discussion - let me end on this - were important. I want to stress again that they were positive and opened the way - as Mevlüt [Çavuşoğlu] said - to an intense calendar of common work to which I can say we are fully committed. We look forward to further common work in very important areas for both of us and for the region, including on energy, human transport and economy, where we have a calendar of high-level meetings that I am sure will bring important results for our people and for our region.
We also decided to work very closely together on all regional foreign policy issues. For us it is key to work together with Turkey where our positions, as you [Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu] said, overlap. We are aligned in most of these areas: on Syria, on Iraq, on the Balkans, on the preservation of the nuclear deal with Iran, on the Middle East peace process and the status of Jerusalem, on Libya and also on the solution of the Cyprus issue that we also discussed this morning and on which we continue to work hopefully together in the coming months.
I would like to thank you very much for a very productive meeting and I wish that this good atmosphere is meant to take us into a new phase of our cooperation of our partnership that is so important for all of us.
Thank you very much.
Questions and Answers
Q: On the Khashoggi case.
If I understood correctly, your question was about the murder of the Saudi journalist that happened in the Saudi consulate here in Turkey, Jamal Khashoggi. The European position has been very clear from the very beginning: we have always been calling for a completely transparent and credible investigation that we have not seen completed yet. We expect that accountability is ensured, which means that those responsible - those really responsible - for this terrible murder have to be held accountable.
For us in the European Union accountability does not mean revenge. We have always been and will continue to be - I want to stress this from the outset - against any application of death penalty, but we expect, in line with our principles and our values and our practices on judicial systems, a full, transparent and fair investigation to take place.
We are following this issue together with our international partners - first of all, with our G7 partners but also very closely with Turkey. And I guess this will be one of the issues we will be discussing over our working lunch.
Q: You mentioned the ECtHR decision on Demirtaş, but President Erdoğan has said that Turkey isn't bound by this decision, so what happens? Do you think there should be consequences for Turkey if it doesn't comply?
I believe that it is in the interest of Turkey to follow up on the Court's decisions. Turkey has always been an important part of the European architecture on human rights and judiciary. We simply expect this to happen. When there is a decision or ruling by the Court – which is quite an unprecedented one - I think that it is a matter for the Turkish authorities, including for the judiciary, to follow it up in the appropriate manner. So this is our expectation.
I would also like to take this opportunity to say very clear: what we expect to see – and this also answers the previous question - is simply concrete progress. And it has always been very clear in which fields the European Union and the Member States expect to see clear and concrete steps forward. This is in particular, first, the rule of law, fundamental freedoms and human rights - in line with the standards of the Council of Europe, which are the standards that Turkey shares, because it is a founding Member of the Council of Europe, and second, good relations with all our Member States.
There is no double standards. When it comes to the European Union, we have high standards, you can like it or not, but you know what you get. [If] you like it, you know what is needed and you know what you get. I have to say that in the world of today it is hard to find any partner that is more reliable and predictable than the European Union. And I believe that on this basis, with a very honest and also very cooperative approach that we have on our side we can move forward in the next months. And I think that the meeting of today has been a good basis for doing that.
Link to the video: http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I164161