World Bulletin/News Desk
Donald Tusk, president of the European Council of EU leaders, spoke to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday about how to improve relations as well as about recent detentions of journalists in Turkey and a need for fair hearings.
In a pointed statement couched in cautious diplomatic language, a week after sharp exchanges between the bloc and its prospective Muslim member, Tusk said: "It was a good opportunity to discuss ways to further strengthen the relations between the European Union and Turkey, which is a common priority. I welcomed Turkey's recently adopted EU strategy and expressed my hope that good progress will be made in 2015."
Praising Turkey for taking in refugees in Syria, the former Polish prime minister added: "We also discussed developments in Turkey, including recent detentions and the importance of an impartial and transparent process in this regard.
"We agreed to remain in close contact and both looked forward to a meeting at the earliest possible opportunity."
A week ago, Erdogan effectively told the EU to mind its own business after its foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and its commissioner in charge of membership negotiations described the arrests as incompatible with the bloc's democratic values.
"We have no concern about what the EU might say, whether the EU accepts us as members or not, we have no such concern," the Turkish leader had said. "Please keep your wisdom to yourself."
The German government said Turkey should remove doubts over its "commitment to basic democratic principles" following the raids on Dec. 14, in which 24 people including executives and former police chiefs were held. On Dec. 19, an Istanbul court ordered the arrest of Gulen, who lives in the United States.
Erdogan has accused Gulen of plotting to seize power. He has purged Gulen supporters from key positions.
The statement by Tusk, who took office this month and hosted his first summit of EU leaders on Thursday, added to impressions that he plans to play a more visible role in diplomacy than his low-key Belgian predecessor Herman Van Rompuy.
Turkey began negotiations to join the EU in 2005, 18 years after applying. But political obstacles, especially over the divided island of Cyprus, and resistance from powerful countries like Germany and France have slowed its progress towards membership.Güncelleme Tarihi: 23 Aralık 2014, 23:24