Turkey slams referendum observers for ‘member with PKK links’

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has harshly slammed the international observers who participated in Turkey’s constitutional referendum on April 16, after including an individual who appeared in a picture behind a flag of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The task of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), who sent a limited mission to Turkey with the Parliamentarian Assembly of Council of Europe(PACE), is to conduct a technical analysis, not a political evaluation, the minister told a news conference in Ankara on April 19. 

The minister was referring to two pictures of PACE member Andrej Hunko, whose pictures with the PKK flag and a “no” campaign poster was posted on Çavuşoğlu’s Twitter account on April 18.

“The OSCE report, whether positive or negative, no longer has any reliability or reputation,” he noted. 

The European body should be “objective and balanced,” and they cannot not “interfere in the domestic politics” of Turkey, he stated. 

The OSCE-PACE observers said the referendum was an uneven contest that took place in unfair conditions.

They particularly noted the Supreme Election Board’s (YSK) controversial 11th-hour decision to accept ballots that did not bear official stamps as valid, saying the decision undermined important safeguards against fraud.

The head of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, said they were ready to discuss Turkey’s situation on April 26 if the allegations in the OSCE report prove to be true.

Çavuşoğlu said a critical report by the observers contained several mistakes and has no “value” for Ankara.

“The OSCE’s report has no reliability as their observations lack objectivity and are extremely partial,” he said, referring to a report by the observers which said the referendum had been an uneven contest. 

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also slammed Hunko during an interview on CNN, displaying the photo in question. 

“He is acting as a PKK activist in his country [Germany],” Erdoğan said. 

“There are even allegations that he donates money to the PKK personally,” the president said, adding that “the report which should have been prepared by independent and impartial observers consists of evaluations that uses the same tongue as the separatist terror organization by an open supporter of the PKK.”

Hunko campaigned for a “no” vote in Germany, he said, showing the photo, and adding that the European Union named the PKK as a terror organization. 

He also criticized the EU, which has bristled at his repeated support for the death penalty and raised concerns about how the referendum was conducted.

Addressing Turkey’s long-stalled bid to join the EU, Erdoğan accused its member states of failing to keep their side of the bargain. The EU had “made us wait at its door for 54 years,” Erdoğan said.

“From a political relationship point of view, this is not tolerable. We have tried hard to accept all the requirements of the EU… the EU has not kept its promises… theEuropean Union must keep its promises,” he added. “If they do keep their promises we can sit down. We can see which steps are to be taken.”

Turkey has repeatedly clashed with EU leaders over a migrant deal to stem the flow of refugees leaving its shores for EU nations, complaining that Turkey is doing more than its part for refugees but getting nothing in return. 

Erdoğan also said that “his plans to assume sweeping new powers do not make him a dictator,” adding that the changes in the constitution package “weren’t about him.”

“I am a mortal really, I could die at any time. The system represents a change, a transformation in the democratic history of Turkey,” he said, while rejecting claims that “the new reforms were a step toward dictatorship.”

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