EU urges Turkey respect media after 'worrying' police raid

The EU said Wednesday a police raid on a press group linked to a bitter rival of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was "worrying"

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The EU said Wednesday a police raid on a press group linked to a bitter rival of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was "worrying" and urged Ankara to respect media freedoms just ahead of key elections.

"The situation concerning Kozi-Ipek (is) worrying. We continue to follow the situation very closely," said Catherine Ray, spokeswoman for EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini.

"We want to reiterate the importance of respect of the rule of law and media freedom," Ray told a regular European Commission press briefing.

"We expect this election to be in line with international and democratic standards," she added.

Erdogan is hoping to regain a parliamentary majority in polls Sunday but the opposition claim he is manipulating a press crackdown and a bloody new campaign against Kurdish rebels to win over voters.

The president rejects the charges, saying he is ensuring national security at a time when the Syrian conflict has stoked regional tensions and forced more than two million refugees to seek safety in Turkey.

Turkey is a candidate country for EU membership but accession talks have stalled, largely on reservations in the bloc over its human rights record.

With the migrant crisis in Europe deepening, Brussels has sought Erdogan's help in controlling the flood of refugees landing on Greece's shores from Turkey.

Ankara has demanded three billion euros ($3.2 billion) in aid in return, and for Brussels to speed up the accession process.

On Wednesday, riot police firing tear gas and water cannon stormed the Istanbul headquarters of the Kozi-Ipek conglomerate linked to exiled preacher Fethullah Gulen, a one-time Erdogan ally now regarded as his arch enemy.

Ray recalled that as an EU candidate country, Turkey "must ensure respect of human rights which includes freedom of expression."

"We will continue to raise the issue of freedom of expression with the Turkish authorities."

Asked about the situation in Turkey on Tuesday, the Commission, the EU's executive arm, had declined to comment on what it termed "internal matters."

Journalists asked again Wednesday when the Commission would publish the regular annual report on Turkey's accession talks, suggesting it was being delayed because of the tense political backdrop.

"Nothing was postponed. President (Jean-Claude Juncker) will determine when it is the appropriate moment to publish the report," a Commission spokesman said.

In remarks Tuesday, Juncker had appeared to suggest that while the EU would continue to press Ankara on its rights concerns, the 28-nation bloc still had to pursue dialogue with Turkey to resolve pressing issues such as the migrant crisis.

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