Articles by "Turkey"

UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura arrives for a session of Syria peace talks at Palais des Nations in Geneva, on March 25, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
The UN’s Syria envoy has written to Iran, Russia and Turkey, pleading with the trio to urgently help save the Syria-wide ceasefire, which has recently been undermined by militant attacks against government positions near Damascus and Hama.
Staffan de Mistura voiced alarm over a spike in truce violations around the Syrian capital and the central Hama Province in letters sent to Iran and Russia, both allies with the Syrian government, as well as Turkey, the supporter of the opposition, his office said in a statement.
The nationwide ceasefire was brokered last December between the Syrian government and militants by Russia and Turkey with the support of Iran.
On the back of the landmark truce, the three states have mediated three rounds of peace negotiations between the Syrian government and opposition groups in Astana, Kazakhstan, since the beginning of 2017.
The Astana discussions have mainly focused on consolidating the ceasefire, paving the way for the resumption of a parallel UN-led peace process between Syria’s warring sides in Geneva, Switzerland.
De Mistura further warned that renewed violence near Damascus and Hama have had “significant negative consequences for the safety of Syrian civilians, humanitarian access and the momentum of the political process” in Geneva.
The UN diplomat urged the three countries “to undertake urgent efforts to uphold the ceasefire” as the guarantors.
General view taken at the start of a meeting between UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura and Syria’s government delegation during peace talks in Geneva on March 25, 2017 (Photo by AFP)
De Mistura’s remarks came as the second full day of the UN-led Syria talks in Geneva came to a close, with rival parties still deadlocked on key issues. The negotiations, which are expected to last until April 1, are centered on terrorism, governance, elections and drafting a new constitution.
Over the past week, militant groups have launched a barrage of attacks on government positions around Damascus and Hama, prompting clashes with the Syrian army.
In a similar call on Friday, the UN’s Syria envoy said Tehran, Moscow and Ankara need to hold a fresh round of talks between the parties to the Syria conflict in an effort to “retake the situation in hand” and strengthen the ceasefire in the country.
Days after the outbreak of fighting close to Damascus and Hama, Syria sent two letters to the United Nations, saying such militant attacks are aimed at undermining the UN-sponsored Syria peace talks in Switzerland.
In the letters, Syria also held Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey responsible for the renewed violence. The three countries are widely viewed as staunch supporters of the Takfiri militants operating to topple the Damascus government.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during a meeting of the members of Balkan Federation on March 23, 2017 at the Bestepe National Congress and Culture Center in Ankara. (Photos by AFP)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says a second referendum may be held after the April constitutional reforms vote over the continuing of EU accession talks.
"Right now we are holding a referendum on April 16 and after that we could choose to do a second one on the [EU] accession talks and we would abide by whatever our people would say there," said Erdogan during Turkish-British Tatlıdil Forum held in Antalya on Saturday.
Turkey is set hold a referendum on the constitutional amendments, including giving executive powers to the president, currently a ceremonial post, and abolishing the office of the prime minister.
The country applied for membership in the European Union in 1987, and began formal accession negotiations in 2005. Since then the talks have made little progress over Turkey’s human rights track record.

"You [Britain] have made a decision with Brexit, there may be different things after April 16," said Erdogan in reference to a June 2016 referendum in the UK in which voters supported the country's exit from the EU.  
Earlier in the day, he stated that it would be "easier" if the EU just rejected Turkey's bid to join the bloc.  
"What? If a 'yes' comes out on April 16, they would not take us into the European Union? Oh, If only they could give this decision! They would make our work easier," he said while addressing a rally.
Erdogan also condemned a recent terror attack near the Houses of Parliament in London in which four people were killed and around 50 more injured.
A person walks past a campaign poster of Turkey's upcoming referendum, reading "Yes" in Turkish, on the facade of a building in Rotterdam on March 25, 2017. 
"This attack is the latest example of terror having no boundaries, no principles, no morals. It is very noteworthy that the parliament was targeted and it has similarities with the July 15 coup attempt, in which our parliament was bombed," he said.
On Wednesday, an assailant plowed a car into pedestrians and stabbed a police officer near the British Parliament, in an attack which has been declared a terrorist incident. The attacker was also shot dead by the police.  
Erdogan added that terrorism will eventually lose, and that Ankara clearly and openly stands by Britain in its battle against terror.  

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (L) meets with Swiss Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter in Bern, Switzerland, March 23, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Turkey's Foreign Ministry summoned Switzerland's deputy ambassador to Ankara on Saturday over a protest in the Swiss capital Bern against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the state-run Anadolu agency reported.
Anadolu said some 250 people, including supporters of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), staged a rally earlier on Saturday in Bern calling for a 'No' vote in an April referendum in Turkey that could give Erdogan sweeping new powers.
The PKK is designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
Erdogan on Saturday lashed out again in the diplomatic row with the European Union saying it would be "easier" if the EU just rejected Turkey's bid to join the bloc.
Turkey and Europe are locked in a bitter dispute after Germany and the Netherlands blocked Turkish ministers from campaigning in the local Turkish communities for a 'yes' vote on boosting Erdogan's powers in next month's referendum.
"What? If a 'yes' comes out on April 16, they would not take us into the European Union? Oh, If only they could give this decision! They would make our work easier," Erdogan said at a rally in the southern city of Antalya.
Despite severely strained relations with Brussels, no EU leader has openly said a 'yes' vote would spell the end of Turkey's already-embattled bid to join the bloc.
But Erdogan told the rally that "April 16 would be a breaking point," referring to EU-Turkey relations if the 'yes' vote wins.
"We will put this (EU-Turkey) business on the table because Turkey is no one's whipping boy," he added, indicating that Ankara could reconsider its relationship with Brussels.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during a meeting of the members of Balkan Federation on March 23, 2017 at the Bestepe National Congress and Culture Center in Ankara, Turkey. (Photo by AFP)
And among some European politicians, there has been discussion over what the future of Turkey's membership process would be.
Kati Piri, the European Parliament's Rapporteur for Turkey, wrote for Politico Europe earlier this week that if a majority of voters approved the constitutional changes, "the European Parliament will have to assess whether the country’s new governance structure meets the EU’s Copenhagen accession criteria".
In the referendum Turks will decide whether to approve constitutional changes that would create an executive presidency and would see the role of prime minister axed.
While the government argues it is necessary for political stability and would avoid fragile coalition governments, critics fear it will lead to one-man rule.
Erdogan has repeatedly accused European countries including Germany of using "Nazi measures," comments that have been condemned by the bloc's leaders.
"For as long as you continue to call me dictator, I will continue to call you fascist, Nazi," Erdogan retorted.
Another contentious issue is the death penalty, which the Turkish president said again Saturday he would approve if it was passed by parliament and brought to him.
"What? If the death penalty is introduced for the 249 people killed, Turkey has no place in Europe. Oh, let it not be!" he said, referring to the number of people killed during last July's failed coup.
Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2004 as part of its bid to join the EU.
But Brussels has repeatedly made clear that any move to bring it back would scupper Turkey's efforts to join the bloc.

The Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates has held Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar responsible for the escalated fighting between government forces and foreign-sponsored Takfiri terrorists on the outskirts of the capital Damascus.
The ministry, in two separate letters addressed to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and rotating President of the United Nations Security Council Matthew Rycroft, called on the Security Council to assume its responsibilities and combat terrorism and criminal acts being perpetrated by al-Nusra Front and other terror groups.
The two identical letters also read that such attacks are simply aimed at undermining the UN-sponsored Syria peace talks in the Swiss city of Geneva.
Earlier on Thursday, Syria’s official news agency SANA reported that government troops had killed more than 157 terrorists, among them foreign nationals, and wounded hundreds of others during the ongoing fighting in the eastern Damascus district of Jobar.
Syrian army soldiers also destroyed three explosive-laden vehicles, three tanks, four armored vehicles, five mortar launchers, three cannons and 15 machine gun-equipped vehicles. They killed seven bombers before targeting military posts in Jobar.
Militant shelling kills 5 kids in Syria's Aleppo
Meanwhile, five children lost their lives and four others sustained injuries in a rocket attack by Takfiri terrorists in Syria's northwestern city of Aleppo.
Local sources said the projectiles slammed into Abdul-Qadir Ba'ath School in the city's al-Hamdaniya neighborhood.
Syrian Red Crescent personnel evacuate the body of a man following a mortar strike by foreign-sponsored Takfiri militants in a government-held part of the western city of Homs on February 10, 2017.
Geneva peace talks
The developments came as the fifth round of Syria talks kicked off in Geneva. The deputy UN special envoy for Syria, Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy, separately met representatives from the Damascus government and the main opposition delegation, the High Negotiations Committee.
Ramzy said he held preliminary talks with each side on Thursday, and hoped to begin "substantive discussions tomorrow."
UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura will join Geneva peace talks on Friday.
De Mistura is trying to mediate a political agreement between Syria's warring sides. The two sides have not had face-to-face meetings in four previous rounds under his auspices since early 2016. He has presided over all those rounds.

Denmark's Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen (Photo by AFP)
Denmark on Monday summoned Turkey's charge d'affaires for talks after local media reported that Danish citizens of Turkish origin critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed they had been tagged as traitors by Ankara.
The Danish Foreign Ministry said in a statement its foreign policy director "made it clear" that Denmark "saw with great concern" those reports about Danish citizens allegedly being registered by Turkish authorities accused of treason because of their political affiliation.
During the meeting, the charge d'affaires said Turkey denied registering Turks living in Denmark based on their political opposition to the government or even having such a registry.
Informing on Turks is only permitted in terrorism-related issues, the charge d'affaires said, according to the Danish ministry statement.
The Turkish charge d'affaires could not be reached for immediate comment.
On Saturday, Danish daily Berlingske reported that several Danish citizens of Turkish origin claimed to have been accused of treason by Ankara and placed on a list because of their political views.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Photo by AFP)
Mustafa Gezen, a high-school teacher in Denmark, had appeared on a TV program last year criticizing Erdogan. He later received an anonymous phone call.
"A man with a heavy Danish accent told me he had recorded the program. He said he would send it to the Turkish embassy in Denmark," Gezen told Berlingske.
Lars Aslan Rasmussen, a lawmaker for the Social Democrats who has Turkish roots, said he has been contacted by people through Facebook and over the phone saying his name has been sent to the Turkish authorities.
"I take this very seriously. I would of course be very upset if I couldn't go there anymore because my father is from there," Rasmussen told Berlingske, referring to Turkey.
On March 12, Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen called on his Turkish counterpart Binali Yildirim to delay a visit planned for later this month because of "tensions" between Ankara and the neighboring Netherlands.
Dutch authorities had refused to allow Turkish ministers to campaign for an April 16 referendum on expanding Erdogan's powers, prompting the Turkish strongman to compare them with Nazi Germany.
"Such a visit could not take place in light of the current attacks by Turkey against the Netherlands. Therefore I proposed to my Turkish colleague to postpone our meeting," Rasmussen said in a statement.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (Photo by AFP)
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has warned Turkey against any return of the capital punishment in the Anatolian country, saying the measure is a "red line" in Ankara’s stalled bid for membership in the European Union.
Juncker made the remarks on Sunday in an interview with the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag. He said, "If the death penalty is reintroduced in Turkey, that would lead to the end of negotiations."
The comments came a day after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would seek to reinstate the measure “without any hesitation” after the upcoming referendum on expanding presidential powers.
Turkey has been attempting to become part of the EU for decades. Formal EU accession negotiations, however, began in 2005. The process has been mired in problems, and only 16 chapters of the 35-chapter accession procedure have been opened for Ankara so far.
In November last year, the European Parliament suspended the accession talks with Ankara over concerns regarding human rights and the rule of law following the July 15 coup attempt against Erdogan, which Ankara claims was organized by US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen. In January, Turkey called on the EU to resume the negotiations.
Juncker said he was opposed to a total halt to all accession talks with Turkey. "It makes no sense to try to calm (Erdogan’s) nerves by stopping negotiations that are not even taking place."
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Brussels has already criticized Ankara for its massive crackdown since the attempted coup. According to official figures, tens of thousands of people, including military personnel, judges, and teachers, have been suspended, dismissed, or detained as part of the post-coup clampdown.
The 28-nation bloc has also expressed its deep concern regarding Turkey’s referendum, further putting the accession talks on a bumpy road.
The April 16 plebiscite is aimed at abolishing the office of the prime minister and giving more executive powers, including issuing decrees, declaring emergency rule, appointing ministers and state officials and dissolving the parliament, to the currently largely ceremonial position of president in Turkey. Critics say the vote would give the president dictatorial powers.
Erdogan has launched yet another scathing verbal attack against German Chancellor Angela Merkel, accusing her of employing “Nazi measures” after German authorities in Frankfurt allowed some 30,000 pro-Kurdish protesters to stage a rally while brandishing the insignia of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
German Chancellor Angela Merkel
Berlin had earlier in March infuriated Ankara after it had prevented Turkish ministers from campaigning in the European country for a “Yes” vote in the upcoming referendum. The ban generated an unprecedented row between Ankara and Berlin, with Erdogan calling Merkel a “terrorist supporter” for Berlin’s failure in responding to 4,500 dossiers sent by Ankara on terror suspects, including those linked to PKK militants and last year’s failed coup.
"When we call them Nazis they (Europe) get uncomfortable. They rally together in solidarity. Especially Merkel," Erdogan said in a televised speech. “But you are right now employing Nazi measures,” he added, referring to Merkel and using the informal “you” in Turkish.
In Sunday’s speech, Erdogan said the current row between Ankara and Europe “showed that a new page had been opened in the ongoing fight against our country.”
Germany, home to 1.4 million Turkish legitimate voters, hosts by far the largest Turkish diaspora community in the world, but the ties between Ankara and Berlin have been ripped to shreds by the current growing crisis.
The Netherlands also angered Ankara after it barred two Turkish ministers earlier this month from holding rallies for a “Yes” in the plebiscite, prompting Erdogan to call Dutch authorities “fascists” and “remnants of Nazis.”

People hold placards during a demonstration organized by Kurds, in Frankfurt, Germany, March 18, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)
The Turkish Foreign Ministry has summoned the German ambassador to Ankara to voice its outrage at a Frankfurt rally in which tens of thousands of protesters brandished the insignia of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), lambasting Berlin for the “pro-PKK rally scandal.”
“Yesterday, the German ambassador was invited, was summoned, to the foreign ministry and this [rally] was condemned in the strongest way,” said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin on Sunday in an interview with the CNN Turk broadcaster.
He added that Germany had “put its name under another scandal” for giving permission to demonstrators to publicly use the insignia of the “separatist terror group” of PKK, which has battled the Turkish government for years.
The PKK, declared as a terrorist organization and banned, has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region since 1984. A shaky ceasefire between the group and the Turkish government collapsed in July 2015 and attacks on Turkish security forces have soared ever since.
Over the past few months, Turkish ground and air forces have been carrying out operations against PKK positions in the country’s southeastern border region as well as in northern Iraq and neighboring Syria. More than 40,000 people have been killed during the three-decade conflict between Ankara and the militant group.
On Saturday, some 30,000 pro-Kurdish demonstrators, carrying pro-PKK signs and placards rallied in the German city of Frankfurt, demanding “democracy in Turkey” and urging a “No” vote in the upcoming referendum on expanding presidential powers.
Kurdish protesters demonstrate with posters reading, “No to dictatorship,” in the city center of Frankfurt am Main, western Germany, March 18, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
The April 16 plebiscite is aimed at abolishing the office of the prime minister and giving more executive powers, including issuing decrees, declaring emergency rule, appointing ministers and state officials and dissolving the parliament, to the currently largely ceremonial position of the Turkish president. Critics, however, say the vote would give the Turkish president dictatorial powers.
Shortly after the rally in Frankfurt, the Turkish Foreign Ministry angrily slammed the demonstration as “unacceptable” and accused German authorities of “blatant hypocrisy” for allowing the protest despite barring Turkish ministers, earlier this month, from campaigning in the European country for a “Yes” vote.
The ban generated an unprecedented row between Ankara and Berlin, with Erdogan calling German Chancellor Angela Merkel a “terrorist supporter” for Berlin’s failure in responding to 4,500 dossiers sent by Ankara on terror suspects, including those linked to PKK militants and last year’s failed coup in Turkey. Erdogan on Sunday ratcheted up his fiery words against Merkel, accusing her of practicing “Nazi measures.”
Berlin further infuriated Ankara earlier on Sunday after Germany's BND foreign intelligence agency said that it was unconvinced by Turkish assertions that US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen had masterminded the failed putsch on July 15, 2016.
What the BND said contradicted Turkey’s stance as the country brands the movement as the Gulenist Terror Organization (FETO). Gulen has denied any involvement in the coup attempt and even condemned it.
Kalin accused Berlin of “whitewashing” the Gulen’s group, while Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik said that the controversial comments by the BND raised questions about whether Germany itself was involved in the coup attempt

This photo shows people waving Turkish flags during an event in Oberhausen, Germany, February 18, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Turkey has raised the possibility of holding another pro-Erdogan campaign rally in Germany before a referendum next month while recent cancellations of such events in Europe have fueled tensions.
Ibrahim Kalin, spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, told the CNN Turk broadcaster on Sunday that the rally could be held ahead of the April 16 referendum on changing the constitution.
Turkey’s dispute with the European Union erupted earlier this month after Germany and the Netherlands blocked Turkish ministers from holding rallies to secure a 'Yes' vote in the April 16 referendum on expanding Erdogan's powers, citing public safety concerns. Critics say the vote would give the Turkish president dictatorial powers.
Erdogan has accused the European countries of acting like "Nazis,” drawing a wave of condemnation.
Ibrahim Kalin, spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Elsewhere in his comments, Kalin warned that "Turkophobia" was on the rise in Europe, assuring, however, that his country was friendly to international investors.
‘Berlin backs Gulen movement’
He further accused Germany of supporting the movement led by US-based opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen that is blamed for the abortive military coup last summer.
The accusation came one day after Germany's BND foreign intelligence agency said it was not convinced that Gulen masterminded the failed putsch on July 15, 2016.
"Turkey has tried to convince us of that at every level but so far it has not succeeded," BND head Bruno Kahl said in an interview with weekly news magazine Der Spiegel.
The assertion contradicted Turkey’s stance as the country brands the movement as the Gulenist Terror Organization (FETO). Gulen has denied any involvement in the coup attempt and even condemned it.
Kalin said doubts expressed by the BND prove that Berlin supports the Gulen movement, saying, "It's an effort to invalidate all the information we have given them on FETO. It's a sign of their support for FETO.”
"Why are they protecting them? Because these are useful instruments for Germany to use against Turkey,” he added.

This file photo shows a view of the Turkish Foreign Ministry building in the capital Ankara.
Turkey says it does not recognize the 2014 reintegration of the Black Sea Crimean Peninsula into the Russian Federation, claiming the move contradicts international law.
The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs made the announcement in a press release on Saturday which marked the third anniversary of Crimea’s reunification with Russia.
“Three years have passed since Ukraine’s Autonomous Republic of Crimea was annexed by the Russian Federation on the grounds of an illegitimate referendum… We reiterate that we do not recognize the de facto situation caused by this act which is a clear violation of the international law,” the press release read.
It further expressed Ankara’s support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, adding Turkey will “closely” follow the situation in Crimea and defend the rights of Crimean Tatars, a Turkic ethnic group living on the peninsula.
Earlier this week, the US took a similar stance and condemned Crimea's reunion with Russia, calling for an end to what it called Moscow's "occupation" of the peninsula.
Crimea rejoined Russia following a referendum on March 16, 2014 deemed illegal by Kiev and the West. With an 83.1 percent voter turnout, 96.77 percent supported the region’s cessation from Ukraine and reunification with Russia.
In response, the US and the European Union imposed sanctions on Moscow.
Kiev also launched a military crackdown on pro-Russia forces fighting for greater autonomy in the Donbass region - the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.
The crisis has left almost 10,000 people dead and over 23,000 others injured, according to the latest figures provided by the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine.
Kiev accuses Moscow of involvement in the conflict, a charge denied by Russia.

Kurdish protesters demonstrate with posters reading “No to dictatorship,” in the city center of Frankfurt am Main, western Germany, March 18, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Some 30,000 pro-Kurdish demonstrators rallied in the German city of Frankfurt on Saturday calling for “democracy in Turkey” and urging a “no” vote in an upcoming referendum on expanding Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers.
Turkey angrily denounced the demonstration as “unacceptable.” Many demonstrators carried symbols of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has battled the Turkish state for over three decades.
Tensions are already running high between Berlin and Ankara after German authorities refused to allow some Turkish ministers to campaign in the country for a “yes” vote in the April 16 referendum, which would hand Erdogan an executive presidency.
Significantly more people turned up for the rally than organizers had been expecting. It took place ahead of the annual Nowrouz festival, when Kurds mark the traditional New Year.
The Saturday protest march in Frankfurt went off peacefully, a police spokesman said.
Some of the participants carried flags and banners of the outlawed PKK, as well as portraits of the group’s jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan, who is serving a life sentence in Turkey, calling for his release.
Police said no banners or flags were confiscated so as to not provoke the crowd, but added that photos had been taken which could lead to future prosecutions.
More than 40,000 people have been killed since the PKK launched its insurgency against the Turkish state in 1984. The group is listed as a terror organization not just by Turkey but also the European Union — including Germany — and the United States.
Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said in a statement that the presidency “condemned in the strongest terms” the fact that the rally had been allowed to go ahead.
He said the “scandal” of the Frankfurt demonstration showed that some EU countries were actively working in favor of a “no” vote in the critical referendum.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said in statement that Germany’s toleration of a rally with symbols of a group that it itself regards as a terror outfit was the “worst example of double standards.”
This file photo, taken on February 2, 2017, shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel leaving after their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Ankara. (By AFP)
Erdogan on Monday accused German Chancellor Angela Merkel of “supporting terrorists,” in a spiraling diplomatic row.
Turkey has long accused Germany of providing refuge to Kurdish and other militants.
A Merkel spokesman described Erdogan’s jibe as “clearly absurd.”
Erdogan has also accused Germany of “Nazi practices” for blocking his ministers from speaking to Turkish voters resident in Germany.
Germany is home to the largest Turkish diaspora in the world, many of whom are of Kurdish origin.

Kurdish protesters rally against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the German city of Frankfurt on March 18, 2017 (Photo by AFP).
Nearly 9,000 Kurdish protesters have staged a rally in the German city of Frankfurt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and an April referendum on a constitutional reform bill that would boost his power.
Several hundred police officers were stationed at the Saturday demonstration, which the police described as peaceful.
Protesters chanted slogans against Erdogan and called for the freedom of Abdullah Ocalan, the detained leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group.
Ankara has outlawed the PKK, which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey since the 1980s.
"The Europeans should hear us, empathize with our suffering and help us. It would be best if they imposed economic sanctions on Turkey," a demonstrator said.
Demonstrators also warned that the situation would worsen in Turkey if Erdogan won the referendum.
"It could be that he will say: 'I have won again' and then he will start fighting again and destroying Kurdish towns or killing Kurds," a protester said.
According to the German Foreign Ministry, Berlin has approved voting for an estimated 1.4 million eligible Turkish voters living in Germany.
On April 16, Turkey will hold a referendum on the constitutional amendments, including giving executive powers to the president, currently a ceremonial post, and abolishing the office of the prime minister.
The draft constitution has already gained approval in parliament, which is dominated by lawmakers of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
The proposed constitutional changes have been met with widespread protest across the country, with critics saying the reforms will usher in an era of authoritarian rule and cement the AKP.
Under the new constitution, Erdogan will be able to stand in two more election cycles, potentially governing as a powerful executive until 2029.
The opponents also say the AKP is using last year’s failed coup to expand Erdogan’s authority and crackdown on opposition.
More than 250 were killed in the last July coup attempt, when a group of renegade army and police officers sought to oust Erdogan. The coup failed after the president returned to his office and people forced the putschists to lay down their arms.
Erdogan then ordered a massive crackdown, which has seen more than 40,000 people jailed and some 110,000 others discharged from their jobs.
Meanwhile, Turkey has detained 740 people for suspected links to the PKK over the last three days, state media reported on Saturday citing an Interior Ministry source.
Authorities carried out 36 raids during the three-day period, seizing equipment, documents and more than a dozen guns, state-run Anadolu news agency said.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel (File Photo)
The German foreign minister says the prospect of Turkey’s accession to the European Union has never been less likely, amid growing tensions between Ankara and some members of the bloc.
"Today Turkey is definitely further away from becoming a member of the European Union than ever before," Sigmar Gabriel said in a Saturday interview with news magazine Der Spiegel.
Gabriel pointed to his long-time doubts about Turkey’s accession to the EU and said he had always found himself in the minority before.
Turkey has been trying to become an EU member for decades. Formal EU accession talks began in 2005, but the process has been plagued by problems.
The EU has opened 16 out of the 35 chapters required for Turkey to join the 28-nation bloc, but only one of them has so far been concluded.
In January, Turkey called on the European Union to resume negotiations on Ankara’s accession to the bloc, after the talks halted following a failed military coup in the country in July 2016.
Meanwhile, Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said in a recent interview that there was currently no helpful reason that would bring the EU and Turkey together, due to Ankara’s verbal attacks and the way that the rule of law and order in Turkey had been trampled on following the July attempted coup.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has also cast doubt on the prospect of Turkey’s membership to the bloc, saying the plans for Ankara’s accession "will not fail due to a lack of willingness on the part of EU members but rather due to Turkey not wanting to introduce European standards."
Juncker warned that talks on Turkey’s accession to the EU would automatically end if Ankara were to re-introduce the death penalty.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker speaks at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on March 15, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
The Turkish government seeks to rally support from Turks abroad for an April referendum on a constitutional reform bill that would boost Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s power.
Erdogan angered Germany and the Netherlands after he described bans by both European countries on planned rallies in support of the referendum as "fascist.”
Relations between Ankara and Berlin have been further upset following the arrest of a Turkish-German journalist in Ankara over his reports on Turkey’s treatment of its Kurdish population.
More than 250 were killed in the last July coup attempt, when a group of renegade army and police officers sought to oust Erdogan. The coup failed after the president returned to his office and people forced the putschists to lay down their arms.
Erdogan then ordered a massive crackdown, which has seen more than 40,000 people jailed and some 110,000 others discharged from their jobs.

Bulgarian President Rumen Radev (Photo by AFP)
Bulgarian President Rumen Radev on Friday accused neighboring Turkey of “interference” in the country’s March 26 general elections and warned his government would not accept it.
“Turkey is our neighbor, friend and partner and we insist on developing good neighborly relations,” Radev told public BNT television on Friday. “But Turkey’s interference in our elections is a fact, and this interference is inadmissible.”
The statement came after over a week of escalating tensions between the two countries.
Bulgaria is angered at Turkey’s open support for Dost, a party for the ethnic Turkish minority, which is running in the general elections for the first time.
The government in Sofia summoned Turkey’s ambassador and recalled its own envoy from Turkey for consultations on Thursday.
Radev called for “more calm and de-escalation of emotions” but also warned Bulgaria was vigilant.
“Bulgaria’s institutions and relevant services are actively working on eliminating all interference in our electoral process and our internal affairs,” he said.
Separately, Bulgaria’s intelligence service, DANS, on Friday said that one Turkish national had been expelled and two more banned from entering or residing in the country.
One of the men was inciting anti-Bulgarian feelings in regions with a mixed Bulgarian and Turkish population, it said.
Bulgaria is home to a 700,000-strong ethnic Turkish minority, a legacy of the Ottoman Empire.
Relations between ethnic Bulgarians and Turks have been peaceful, but many in the Turkish minority have bitter memories of assimilation policies from the Communist era, when the authorities forced them to adopt Slavic names.
Tensions between the two neighboring countries also come at a time of a wider row between Ankara and the European Union ahead of the Turkish referendum, with a number of countries preventing Turkish ministers from attending referendum rallies.
The row could be a major problem for Bulgaria, the EU’s poorest country, since it shares a 270-kilometre (165-mile) border with its southeastern neighbor, Radev said Friday.
“Escalation of the tensions along the EU-Turkey axis will rebound most powerfully on Bulgaria, because we are on the front line,” he warned, urging the EU to find a solution that guarantees the security of all member-states.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (file photo)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called on the Turkish citizens residing in Europe to have at least five children in an attempt to multiply their presence in the continent amid rising tensions between the European Union and Ankara.
The Turkish leader, father of four, made the remarks at a rally in Eskisehir, the provincial capital of the mid-western province of Eskisehir, on Friday, four years after he called on the Turkish women to have at least three children to help boost the population, saying having one or two children would be “bankruptcy” for the nation. The controversial remarks, which were repeated over the following years, however, were lambasted by women’s rights activists at the time and later on.
“The place in which you are living and working is now your homeland and new motherland. Stake a claim to it. Open more businesses, enroll your children in better schools, make your family live in better neighborhoods, drive the best cars, live in the most beautiful houses. That’s because you are the future of Europe,” Erdogan further addressed the Turkish diaspora.
Turkey’s unprecedented dispute with the EU in general and the Netherlands and Germany in particular erupted earlier this month after Amsterdam and Berlin blocked Turkish ministers from holding rallies to secure a 'Yes' vote in Turkey’s April referendum on expanding Erdogan's powers.
“It will be the best answer to the vulgarism, antagonism, and injustice made against you,” Erdogan added, referring to the rally bans imposed by the Netherlands and Germany. Earlier, he had described the Dutch authorities as “fascists” and “remnants of Nazis” and had accused the German authorities of committing “Nazi practices.”
Earlier this week, the EU had called on Ankara to “refrain from excessive statements” angering both Amsterdam and Berlin.
Some 2.5 million Turkish citizens are currently living in Europe and are eligible to take part in elections, including the upcoming referendum. In addition, millions more people with Turkish origins are living in EU member states.
The April 16 plebiscite is aimed at abolishing the office of the prime minister and giving more executive powers, including issuing decrees, declaring emergency rule, appointing ministers and state officials and dissolving the parliament, to the currently largely ceremonial position of the Turkish president.
A man pulls a cart in front of a huge portrait of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey, on March 15, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Erdogan made the remarks only a day after the government threatened to abandon a refugee agreement with the EU, which was sealed in March 2016 to stem the flow of refugees to Europe in return for financial and political rewards for Ankara.
Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu cautioned Brussels on Thursday that his country could send up to 15,000 refugees and asylum seekers each month to the EU amidst the growing diplomatic row between the two sides.
His remarks came hours after Erdogan said the EU could “forget about” the deal. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also warned on Friday that Ankara was reconsidering the deal and that it might cancel the accord altogether.
Under the refugee agreement, the European authorities, particularly the Greeks, can return the refugees, who have illegally crossed the Aegean Sea, to Turkey.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the Turkish opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP)
The top Turkish opposition leader has warned that the proposed constitutional amendments can put the country at risk of falling under the control of a single person within a matter of one day.
“In this [suggested] system, if you persuade the president, you can take over the Turkish Republic in 24 hours at most. It does not have any mechanism,” Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said during a rally in the Black Sea province of Amasya on Wednesday.
On April 16, Turkey will hold a referendum on the constitutional amendments, including giving executive powers to the president, currently a ceremonial post, and abolishing the office of the prime minister.
The draft constitution, backed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has already gained approval in the parliament dominated by lawmakers of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Kilicdaroglu further said the proposed constitutional reforms would put “all authority” in the hands of a single person.
“If one person or a group tricks this person, they can take over the Turkish Republic in one day. He will be appointing the ministers, general managers, police chiefs, muftis and department heads. The appointments can be published in the Official Gazette in an hour and all state cadres can change in 24 hours,” he added.
Kilicdaroglu ruled out the prospect of positive change in Turkey if the proposed amendments were enforced, asking, “Will it solve the problems of farmers or tradesmen? Will it solve the terror problem? Will it bring in sustainability? Which problem will it solve? Will it solve the employment problems of the youth? Then why is such a change being made?”
He had in January called on Turkish citizens to say “No” to the changes in the referendum, stressing, “If you respect what is right, you will oppose this constitution.”
The proposed constitutional changes have been met with widespread protest across the country, with critics saying the reforms will usher in an era of authoritarian rule and cement the ruling AKP.
Under the new constitution, Erdogan will be able to stand in two more election cycles, potentially governing as a powerful executive until 2029.
The opponents also say the AKP is using last year’s failed coup to expand Erdogan’s authority and crackdown on opposition.
More than 250 were killed on July 15 last year, when a group of renegade army and police officers attempted to oust Erdogan. The coup failed permanently after the president returned to his office and people forced the putschists to lay down their arms.
Erdogan then ordered a massive crackdown, which has seen more than 40,000 people jailed and some 110,000 others discharged from their jobs.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to end a contentious agreement with the EU, aimed at halting the refugee influx into the continent as tensions between the two sides continue to escalate.
Speaking in a televised address on Thursday, Erdogan said the EU could "forget about" the deal, which was sealed in March 2016 to stem the flow of refugees to Europe in return for financial and political rewards for Ankara.
Erdogan further accused the European Union of not sticking to a promise to grant Turkish nationals the right to travel visa-free in Europe.
He also censured a recent ruling by the EU's top court in favor of curbs on wearing headscarves, accusing the body of having launched a "crusade" against Islam.
“The European Union's court, the European Court of Justice (ECJ), my esteemed brothers, have started a crusade struggle against the (Muslim) crescent," he said.
On Tuesday, the ECJ said it is okay if a firm has an internal rule banning the wearing of "any political, philosophical or religious sign" such as headscarves.
“Where is freedom of religion?" Erdogan asked. "Shame on your European Union acquis. Shame on your values. Shame on your law and justice!"
Erdogan said, "Europe is swiftly rolling back to the days before World War II." 
EU expects Turkey to comply with refugee accord
Meanwhile, the European Commission (EC), the EU's politically independent executive arm, said on Thursday that the bloc expects Turkey to honor the refugee deal.
"We remain committed to the implementation of the EU-Turkey statement.... This is an engagement of mutual trust and delivery and we expect that both sides will comply with their commitments," EC spokesman, Margaritis Schinas, said.
Dutch liberals, fascists not different: Cavusoglu
In a related development, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said there was "no difference" between the ruling Dutch liberals and the "fascist" politician Geert Wilders, adding “they have the same mentality."
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu addresses supporters during a political rally on Turkey's upcoming referendum, in Metz, France, March 12, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)
Cavusoglu made the remarks, cited by the state-run Anadolu news agency, a day after general elections were held in the Netherlands.
With 99 percent of votes counted, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s VVD Liberal party has won 33 of parliament's 150 seats while far-right Wilders of the PVV Party is second with 20 seats.
"Where are you going, where are you taking Europe?" Cavusoglu asked, addressing European leaders.
"You have begun to disintegrate Europe and take Europe to the cliff. Soon religious wars will begin in Europe," he warned.
Dutch PM Mark Rutte (R) talks with Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders after the general election in The Hague, Netherlands, March 16, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)
The top Turkish diplomat further questioned Amsterdam's understanding of "humanity, democracy and freedom," saying Turkey would not remain passive against the recent Dutch moves.
Turkey’s dispute with the EU erupted earlier this month after Germany and the Netherlands blocked Turkish ministers from holding rallies to secure a 'Yes' vote in next month's referendum on expanding Erdogan's powers.
The Turkish president has accused the European countries of acting like "Nazis.”
Hollande, Merkel rap Erdogan’s Nazi jibe
French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke on the phone on Thursday and condemned Erdogan’s Nazi jibe.
In a joint statement released by the French president's office, the two officials said they "consider comparisons with Nazism and aggressive statements against Germany and other member states unacceptable.”
Bulgaria-Turkey ties sour 
In another development on Thursday, Bulgaria recalled its ambassador to Turkey for consultations but the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry did not provide any further details about the move.
The move came after Sofia summoned Turkey's envoy last week after he supported Bulgaria’s pro-Turkish Dost party, which is running in the snap parliamentary election on March 26.
The eastern European country further accused Ankara of "direct interference in Bulgarian domestic affairs" by encouraging some 60,000 Bulgarian citizens living in Turkey to vote for Dost party.

Turkish citizens show their anger outside the Dutch consulate in Istanbul. Photo / AP
Turkey said yesterday that it would suspend high-level diplomatic relations with the Netherlands after Dutch authorities prevented its ministers from speaking at rallies of expatriate Turks, deepening the row between the two Nato allies.
The sanctions - which include a ban on the Dutch ambassador and diplomatic flights from the Netherlands but do not appear to include economic measures or travel restrictions for ordinary citizens - mark another low point in relations between Turkey and the European Union, which it still officially aims to join.
President Tayyip Erdogan, who is seeking Turkish voters' support in an April 16 referendum on boosting his powers as head of state, has previously accused the Dutch Government of acting like "Nazi remnants" for barring his ministers from addressing expatriate Turks to drum up votes.
The row is likely to further dim Ankara's prospects of EU membership. It also comes as Turkey wrestles with security concerns over militant attacks and the war in neighbouring Syria.

Kurtulmus, the Government's chief spokesman, also threatened to scrap Turkey's deal to stop the flow of migrants into Europe, saying the agreement may need to be re-evaluated. He said high-level government meetings would be suspended between the two countries until the Netherlands had atoned for its actions."We are doing exactly what they did to us. We are not allowing planes carrying Dutch diplomats or envoys to land in Turkey or use our airspace," Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus told a news conference after a cabinet meeting. "Those creating this crisis are responsible for fixing it."
Earlier Erdogan threatened to take the Dutch to the European Court of Human Rights.
Turkey also summoned the Dutch charge d'affaires to complain about the ban - imposed due to fears of unrest and also to Dutch distaste at what Europe sees as an increasingly authoritarian tone from Erdogan - and the actions of police against Turkish protesters in Rotterdam over the weekend, Foreign Ministry sources said.
On Sunday, Dutch police used dogs and water cannons to disperse hundreds of protesters waving Turkish flags outside the consulate in Rotterdam. Some protesters threw bottles and stones and several demonstrators were beaten by police with batons, a Reuters witness said. Mounted police officers charged the crowd.
"The Turkish community and our citizens were subject to bad treatment, with inhumane and humiliating methods used in disproportionate intervention against people exercising their right to peaceful assembly," a statement attributed to ministry sources said.
The Dutch Government barred Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu from flying to Rotterdam on Saturday and later stopped Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya from entering the Turkish consulate there, before escorting her back to Germany.
Protests then erupted in Turkey and the Netherlands.
Several European countries have stopped Turkish politicians holding rallies, due to fears that tensions in Turkey might spill over into their expatriate communities. Some 400,000 Turkish citizens live in the Netherlands and an 1.5 million Turkish voters live in Germany.
Yesterday, Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said he would try to prohibit Turkish ministers from campaigning in his country too for "reasons of public security".
The Dutch Government said the visits were untimely ahead of today's national election, in which polls suggest it may lose about half its seats due to expected big gains by the anti-Islam party of Geert Wilders.
Dutch visitors are important to Turkey's tourism industry, which was hit hard last year by security fears due to attacks by Isis and Kurdish militants. Some 900,000 Dutch people visited Turkey last year, down from 1.2 million a year earlier.

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