EU 'gravely concerned' by Turkey's arrest of pro-Kurdish MPs
BRUSSELS - The EU on Friday warned Turkey to respect democratic norms when fighting Kurdish rebels and said it was "gravely concerned" by the arrest of leaders of the country's main pro-Kurd party.
The European Union has repeatedly urged EU candidate Turkey not to undercut the rights standards it must meet for membership, especially since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched a massive purge in the aftermath of a failed coup in July.
"The European Union is gravely concerned," EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini said in a joint statement with EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn following the HDP party arrests.
"Among those detained are the party's co-chairs Figen Yuksekdag and Selahattin Demirtas, both democratically elected leaders and our trusted and valued interlocutors," they said.
Turkish police detained overnight the two co-leaders of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) -- Demirtas in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir and Yuksekdag in Ankara as part of a terror investigation, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.
"These developments... compromise parliamentary democracy in Turkey and exacerbate the already very tense situation in the southeast of the country, for which there can only be a political solution," Mogherini and Hahn said.
The arrests appeared part of a large-scale operation against the HDP, which is the third largest party in the Turkish parliament.
Reports said the two leaders were accused of spreading propaganda for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
Hours after the arrests, a suspected car bomb killed one person and injured 30 in Diyarbakir.
In their statement, Mogherini and Hahn said they considered action against the PKK, which the EU lists as a terrorist organisation, to be "legitimate."
"At the same time, the EU believes that such actions must never undermine the basic principles of democracy," they said.
"We expect Turkey to safeguard its parliamentary democracy, including respect for human rights and the rule of law, and we are conveying these expectations directly to the Turkish authorities," they added.
The HDP said Friday the arrests of the two leaders and several other MPs marked the "end of democracy" in Turkey.
The EU and many of its 28 member states have also warned Turkey that any re-introduction of the death penalty would immediately scupper its already very difficult EU membership talks.