EU and Turkey have to find common ground

It may not have reached a point of no return yet.

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Published: Sun 19 Mar 2017, 6:11 PM

Last updated: Sun 19 Mar 2017, 8:19 PM

During election season political parties will do all they can to get an edge over their opponents. But when domestic issues spill over into relations between countries, there is reason to be concerned. It may not have reached a point of no return yet. But with intelligence agencies now getting involved in the spat between Europe and Turkey, the situation looks serious. Ties have hit the lowest, a nadir - the worst in recent memory. The script goes like this. First, there is posturing, then accusations, followed by threats. This could die out once elections are over, like they did in The Netherlands, which opted for the centre-right status quo under Prime Minister Mark Rutte, which is far better than the far right of Geert Wilders.
But it seems Germany is not done with Turkey yet as its intelligence chief has joined in the controversy over Turkish rallies and last year's coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Germany and other European countries believe Ankara used excessive force to crush protests. Erdogan says it was necessary to maintain order and blamed a cleric and businessman, Fethullah Gulen, now in exile in the US, for instigating the coup. Berlin, last year, led the bailout for Ankara, which some critics called bribery, to keep Syrian migrants from crossing over into Europe, and wants Turkey to play by EU rules. Ankara, meanwhile, has joined the Russian camp, and does not take kindly to being talked down to by European leaders. A Nato member, Turkey's ambitions are tied to that of President Erdogan, who is seeking more executive powers. His support base extends to European Turks, but countries there will have none of it. Herein lies the dilemma this election season in Europe and Turkey. German and French polls are due later this year. Erdogan's referendum is set for April 16. Europe and Turkey should pull back from the brink and stop the provocations. The future of their people and those seeking a new life from Syria is at stake.

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