Time to return to normality for Turkey: UK

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The United Kingdom stands by Turkey a year on from the coup attempt and understands the extraordinary challenges Turkey is facing, but urges it to signal a return to normality by lifting the state of emergency rule issued after the July 15, 2016, coup attempt, Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Alan Duncan, has told daily Hürriyet, stating that British authorities have concerns about “human rights, arrests and the workings of democracy and judicial processes.”

He also restated the U.K.’s continued solidarity with the Turkish government and its people that it showed so clearly on the night of the coup attempt and during the challenging times that followed.

“I think the first thing to understand is just how extensive and a total threat this was to the country and its entire government and its working as a state. So, if you understand that, then you have to understand that extraordinary steps needed to be taken to stabilize the country and to make sure this could not happen again,” he said in an interview with the daily on Aug. 17.

“I think it would be good if the country could get to the position where it can end the state of emergency and prove that the steps that have been taken against threats are on an individual basis, just, proper and fair,” Duncan said, voicing concerns about the prolonged state of emergency rule in Turkey.

“There are tens of thousands of people who have been labelled as a threat. I think that is a challenge for the country and there are concerns,” he added.

“It would be very good to signal that there can be a return to normality. I think a permanent or a prolonged state of emergency does not signal that,” he said.

Duncan said the U.K. acknowledged the gravity of the threat that the July 15 coup attempt posed to the Turkish government, and to face such a threat, extraordinary steps had to be taken to stabilize the country.

“There is clear evidence of the Gülenists’ involvement. But it is also important to uphold the principles of democracy and the proper judicial process so that across the world, people can retain their faith in Turkey as a stable country, good for business and with its proper principles of democracy and justice,” he said.

He added that in the U.K. the arrest of Amnesty International members had also resonated since the organization has a “strong support in the country,” and that such issues “are causing a little bit of difficulty.”

“I very much hope that the principles of an independent judiciary, dispensing justice in a fair and proper way can be what we see here in Turkey,” he said.

“The United Kingdom is determined to understand what is going on in Turkey and work very closely with you now and in the years ahead. Our bilateral relations are very strong,” he said.

Arrest of politicians

Responding to a question concerning the latest speculations over the possibility of the arrest of main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, whom President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan suggested may be linked to an espionage case which led to the imprisonment of CHP lawmaker Enis Berberoğlu, Duncan said “concerns inevitably grow when elected politicians are arrested.”

“It is difficult to reconcile that with the proper workings of democracy. So, we would certainly urge caution in doing such things,” he said.

“If someone is proven to threaten the state and be plotting against the government and to be participating in plans for a coup or an actual coup attempt, then, of course, there is a reason to arrest them. MPs should not be exempt in such circumstances. But one should not arrest people for having a point of view or an opinion. Because the difference of opinion is an essential part of a properly working democracy,” he said.

Brexit, EU and Turkey’s position

Duncan also stressed on the growing relations between Turkey and the U.K. as Britain prepares to leave the European Union.

“As we leave [the EU] the business, cultural, technological and all other relations between Turkey and Britain can actually now go forward because we are really making a big effort,” Duncan said.

Asked about the deteriorating relations between Ankara and Brussels concerning the accession talks with Turkey, Duncan said, “Whatever the current tensions, countries have still got to cooperate and work together to serve the interests they have in common.”

“One of the main reasons that the U.K. is taking such interest in Turkey is that you are the most important country and you matter for counter-terrorism. You are next door to Syria and you are located where there is a migration challenge,” he said.

“If the world is to tackle these challenges, countries have to work together and therefore it is important that we, the EU and Turkey do work together whatever political differences there may be,” he said.

“I would signal very strongly that the U.K. will continue to work very closely with Turkey on all of our common interests on security, peace, migration, trade and so on,” he added.

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