ANKARA (Reuters)–The European Union has condemned the use of violence by Turkish police against women demonstrators and urged Turkey to fully implement all human rights reforms aimed at preparing the country for EU membership.
Television footage showed Turkish police kicking and beating women’s rights protesters on Sunday during an unauthorized demonstration in Istanbul just as senior EU officials arrived in the country for three days of talks on Turkey’s EU bid.
"We have been very concerned to see such disproportionate use of force against demonstrators," said Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn. Luxembourg holds the EU’s rotating presidency.
Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul promised a full investigation into the incident and said Turkey remained fully committed to meeting all EU norms as it prepares for entry negotiations–which are due to start on October 3.
Asselborn urged Turkey to keep up the momentum of its reforms–including a ‘zero tolerance’ policy towards torture and full property rights for non-Muslim religious groups.
Gul rejected recent criticism by EU officials and Turkish media that Ankara has been dragging its feet over the EU process since winning its October 3 date for talks at a historic summit in Brussels last December.
He attributed the impression of recent inactivity to the big reform push ahead of the December summit–jokingly comparing Turkey to a "doped-up" athlete racing for the finishing line.
"Now we continue our work at a more normal pace," he said.