EU considers Turkey sanctions over crackdown on opposition, media

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The European Union will consider taking “punitive” economic measures if Turkey continued its crackdown on Kurdish opposition politicians and independent media outlets, according to the President of European Parliament Martin Schulz.

Negotiations over Turkey’s accession to the EU could also be over if Ankara reinstated capital punishment, warned Schulz against a prospect repeatedly voiced by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and several ministers in the aftermath of the botched July 15 military coup attempt.

In an interview with the German weekly Bild am Sonntag released on Sunday, Schulz said the reintroduction of the death penalty by Turkey’s government would mean “crossing a red line.”

The EP President’s remarks came after last week’s call of the Member of the European Parliament and EU’s rapporteur on Turkey Kati Piri to freeze accession talks with Ankara which started in 2005.

The EP’s Schulz still hoped a break-off with Turkey would not become necessary, stating he was for a continuation of relations between the EU and Ankara.

“If we cut off the relations with Turkey, we will have no more opportunities to help the opposition and the prisoners. That is why I am still in favor of dialogue,” explained Schulz.

The EP President had previously described the early November detention of Kurdish lawmakers as “a chilling signal” about the state of political pluralism in Turkey.

Schulz said the EU–Turkey Customs Union agreement which allowed free trade between the two sides had to be extended by the end of the year.

Moreover, Schulz added he “could not imagine” the agreement would happen with the current wave of arrests and clampdown on civil society.

Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mevlut Cavusoglu reacted on Sunday to Schulz’ statement by saying what the latter said were not important, a stance defiant of the EU also taken by President Erdogan.

Cavusoglu, like other ministers, accused Schulz of defending and supporting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party and “doing his worst” in invoking a possibility of economic sanctions on Turkey, reported the government-run Anadolu Agency.

“These threatening words do not affect us. We are taking power from our people. We can see how two-faced the EU and EP President are as usual,” said the Turkish Minister.

European Union foreign ministers are trying to reach a common stance on Turkey over the government crackdown on political opponents and the media.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said she and the ministers would strive Monday for “a common, united position on developments in Turkey.”

The crackdown has raised questions about Turkey’s EU membership prospects.

EU officials say it’s time for Ankara to say whether it really wants to join, but Mogherini said the future of membership wouldn’t be on the table at Monday’s talks in Brussels.

Syrian sanctions

The European Union has slapped travel bans and asset freezes on 17 senior Syrian government officials and the governor of the conflict-torn country’s central bank.

EU foreign ministers made the move at talks in Brussels Monday against those “responsible for the violent repression against the civilian population in Syria, benefiting from or supporting the regime, and/or being associated with such persons.”

The list includes 13 cabinet members and four ministers of state.

It brings to 234 the total number of people subject to a travel ban and an asset freeze for repression against civilians in Syria.