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EU chiefs meet Erdogan to rebuild relations despite escalation of Turkish aggression

EUROPEAN Union chiefs made a rare visit to Turkey today as the trading bloc looks for a rapprochement with the nation, despite its government’s continued aggression against Kurds and oppression of the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen and European Council president Charles Michel arrived in the Turkish capital for talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has insisted he wants to “turn a new page” with Brussels.

EU officials insisted that the talks would “not be a moment for negotiations” but an opportunity for both sides to lay out their expectations and terms for improved ties.

The meeting was the first since Mr Erdogan visited Brussels in March 2020 and comes soon after moves were made to shut down the HDP, Turkey’s fourth largest political party.

But both the EU and the new Biden administration have appeared unwilling to confront Turkey, rolling back from sanctions that had been threatened in December relating to “unauthorised drilling activities” for natural gas in disputed waters in the eastern Mediterranean.

The EU has merely expressed “deep concerns” over the attacks on the HDP, while the US said that the ban would “further undermine democracy in Turkey,” which did not overly concern Mr Erdogan as Ankara warned against interference in its domestic affairs.

Some 20,000 HDP members and supporters have been detained since 2016, with 10,000 of those jailed including 200 elected officials and at least seven MPs.

The HDP has warned of a “political genocide” against the party, to virtual silence from the international community.

A group of MEPs from the Socialists & Democrats and Nordic Green Left groupings wrote to Ms von der Leyen and Mr Michel ahead of their visit, urging them to hold Turkey to account for alleged war crimes in Afrin, the withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention and the oppression of the HDP along with other rights violations.

Turkish jets pummelled Duhok province in Iraqi Kurdistan on Monday night and in the early hours of Tuesday morning, targeting villages and civilian infrastructure. 

Many were forced to flee their homes during the bombing raids, with Iraq once again warning Turkey against violations of its sovereignty.

Ankara launches frequent attacks on Kurdish settlements, insisting that it is targeting the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has bases in the mountainous border region.

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