Turkey says EU criticism over arrests unacceptable

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday Ankara could not accept "such heavy criticism" from the European Union about weekend raids that targeted opposition media.

AFP| Last Updated: Dec 16, 2014, 17:41 PM IST

Ankara: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday Ankara could not accept "such heavy criticism" from the European Union about weekend raids that targeted opposition media.

"Everyone can express dismay over the arrest of journalists and wish to see a transparent judicial process," Cavusoglu told a press conference with his Norwegian counterpart in Ankara.

"But we cannot accept such heavy criticism against Turkey and its government after the beginning of a judicial process," he added.

Turkish police on Sunday arrested over two dozen people including the editor of Turkey`s biggest-selling newspaper and other media figures, in lightning raids on supporters of US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who has become President Recep Tayyip Erdogan`s arch foe.

The European Union led criticism, with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn condemning the raids as "incompatible with the freedom of media".

But Erdogan bluntly told the EU to "mind their own business", in comments that risk causing a major rift with Brussels.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said she was "very surprised" and added it was "in the Turkish interest to be consistent" with a commitment for a new start in relations with the new executive in Brussels.

EU officials were particularly taken aback by Erdogan`s comments after a visit by Mogherini to Ankara last week sparked a positive momentum to revive Turkey`s stalled membership bid.

But Cavusoglu said the EU criticism contrasted with the "sincere process" that has begun between Ankara and Brussels.

"Direct heavy criticism and threats aimed at stalling the negotiating process -- these are not sincere approaches," he said.

"We want to become a member of the EU and speed up negotiations. We have made significant reforms over the last 12 years in the areas of freedom of press and free speech," he added.

Turkey has hardly made any progress in its accession talks with the EU since they formally opened in 2005. A row with member Cyprus and opposition from some members have slowed down the process.

Ankara is also under fire from Brussels over its poor human rights record, with the latest arrests adding to the controversy.