Turkey's foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Tuesday met EU officials for high-level talks in Brussels. The discussion covered contentious subjects, including Turkey's demands for visa-free travel to the EU, the refugee deal and Turkey's detention of human rights activists and journalists following last year's failed coup.
The meeting in Brussels was formally about Turkey's long-stalled bid for EU membership, the fight against terrorism, and energy and trade ties. But it was held in the shadow of Ankara's crackdown and mass detentions in the wake of the failed coup.
Cavusoglu said Ankara's post-coup policies were necessary to fight terrorism and extremism.
"Having the identity of a journalist does not justify committing any crime," Cavusoglu said at a joint news conference with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, European enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn and Turkish EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik.
"We are fighting terrorist organisations. We suffered a coup attempt and we did not receive adequate support from the EU. We started to receive adequate support after one year - support in the form of statements."
Hahn expressed "very strong concern" about the arrests.
Cavusoglu said anybody involved in the July 15, 2016 coup attempt, whether a soldier, police, politician, or journalist, would be treated the same.
The Turkish foreign minister said Ankara was ready to share information with the EU on those accused of plotting the coup.
He added that the ongoing state of emergency in Turkey was in compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights and did not differ from similar measures currently in place in France.
Dialogue to continue despite differences
Omer Celik, Ankara's minister in charge of EU issues, said Tuesday's discussions were "constructive."
"It's clear that we have differences, that we have disagreements, but dialogue, discussions and [the] search for settlements ... will of course continue," Celik added.
Celik called accession negotiations "the backbone" of EU-Turkey relations and said the best way to discuss differences would be to open accession chapters.
Hahn said, "Human rights, the rule of law, democracy, fundamental freedoms – including media freedom – are all basic imperative requirements for any progress towards the European Union." He added that the EU wants to see "progress in all these areas."
Detentions & FETO
Turkey has been mired in a diplomatic row with the EU and fellow NATO ally Germany following the recent arrest of a group of human rights activists, including a German national on terror-related charges.
Amnesty International's Turkey Director Idil Eser and its chair Taner Kilic were among those detained in Turkey's post-coup attempt crackdown. Their arrest followed that of a German-Turkish journalist for allegedly spying and aiding a terrorist organisation.
Cavusoglu said the EU's failure to recognise what Ankara calls the Fetullah Terrorist Organisation (FETO) as a terrorist group meant the EU saw every step by the Turkish government against the organisation as a violation.
Cavusoglu said Amnesty's Kilic had been remanded but that "does not mean Turkey is against Amnesty International; it is about the individual." He said Kilic had communicated with senior FETO figures abroad through the ByLock smartphone messaging app.
Ankara alleges that FETO members used ByLock to communicate their coup plans. The app is believed to have been cracked by Turkish security agencies, allowing them to identify tens of thousands of alleged supporters of FETO.
Turkey accuses FETO of a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary.
FETO is an acronym for the network of US-based Fetullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of masterminding last year's failed coup, in which nearly 250 people died, most of them civilians, and more than 2,000 were injured. Gulen denies any involvement in the failed putsch.
Turkey applied to join the EU three decades ago, and it started negotiating in 2005.
But of the 16 negotiating chapters on issues as varied as capital movement and food safety, only one – science and research – has been provisionally closed.