ANKARA, Turkey: The European Union's top two officials said Tuesday they expressed deep concerns about human rights in Turkey in their first meeting in a year with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“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,” European Council president Charles Michel said after nearly three hours of talks with Erdogan in Ankara.
The talks came on the heels of Erdogan's withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention, which combats violence against women, and Turkey's launch of a formal attempt to shut down the main pro-Kurdish party.
“Human rights issues are non-negotiable, they have absolute priority ... we were very clear on that,” European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said, calling them a “crucial” element for better Turkey-EU ties.
“I am deeply worried about the fact that Turkey withdrew from the Istanbul Convention. This is about protecting women and protecting children against violence and this is clearly the wrong signal right now,” she added.
“Turkey must respect international human rights rules and standards, to which by the way the country has committed itself as a founding member of the Council of Europe,” said von der Leyen.
The Turkish president issued no immediate statement after the meeting.