EU urges Turkey to reverse its withdrawal from Istanbul Convention, raises concern over human rights

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On Tuesday, in a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen raised serious concerns over Ankara’s withdrawal from Istanbul Convention. She said that the move left her “deeply worried” as the treaty aimed at promoting women safety and preventing violence against women, and Ankara’s departure from it sent a wrong message.

Ms von der Leyen said, “This is about protecting women and protecting children against violence and this is clearly the wrong signal right now. We certainly did not convince, but we urged Turkey to reverse its decision.”

Last month Turkey’s official gazette announced the country’s exit from Istanbul Convention, which drew criticism from many European nations. In its justification for withdrawal from the international pact, the conservative faction of Turkey said that the treaty was endangering family structures, encouraging divorces and even helping the LGBT community in gaining acceptance in society due its references towards equality. They believed that the treaty’s feature of gender equality was encouraging homosexuality as the principle prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Ms von der Leyen also raised concerns over the overall state of human rights in Turkey and pressed the country to adhere to ruling passed by the European Court of Human Rights. The European court demanded immediate release of Turkish politician Selahattin Demirtas and philanthropist Osman Kavala. She said, “Human rights issues are non-negotiable. They have an absolute priority without any question. We were very clear on that, that this is our position.”

Besides the two leaders, the meeting was also attended by European Council President Charles Michel. He emphasised upon Turkey’s human rights record, and slammed its recent forceful shutting of an opposition party. He said, “The rule of law and respect of fundamental rights are core values of the European Union and we shared with President Erdogan our deep worries on the latest developments with Turkey in this respect.”

In the meeting, the EU chiefs also discussed ways to better European ties with Turkey. “This is the beginning of a process. We’re at the beginning of a road together,” said EU President. “Turkey shows interest in re-engaging with the European Union in a constructive way. And we have come to Turkey to give the relationship a new momentum,” She added.

Mr Michel asked on Turkey to “seize this opportunity” and added that the two would take up the matter of deepening ties with Ankara at the next European Council in June.

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