On the first day of his visit, Minister Asselborn was received in Ankara by his Turkish counterpart, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, for a working meeting and had a meeting with the President of the National Assembly, Binali Yildirim. Minister Asselborn also met the President of the Republican People's Party (CHP), Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.
This first visit of Minister Asselborn since the coup attempt of 2016 against the democratic institutions of Turkey was aimed at taking stock of bilateral relations, EU-Turkey relations and the regional situation. The ministers explored different avenues to further strengthen economic and cultural relations; the two sides have agreed to soon start preparations for the next Joint Economic and Trade Commission (JETCO).
Both parties were also able to take stock of migration. In this context, Minister Asselborn expressed his gratitude for the welcome given by Turkey to 3.6 million Syrian refugees, as well as over 400,000 other refugees and the close cooperation with the EU aimed at preventing the loss of life in the Aegean Sea. The minister also stressed the importance of the EU's two tranches of €3 billion aid packages to ensure access for refugees to education and health care in particular. To demonstrate the scale of this challenge, we must know that every year 60,000 Syrian children are born in Turkey.
While being aware of the dramatic impact of the coup attempt of 2016, which Luxembourg had strongly condemned at the time, the head of Luxembourg diplomacy expressed his concern about the extent of subsequent action and its long-term effect. This is particularly true with regard to the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and respect for fundamental freedoms and human rights.
The discussions also provided an overview of the regional political news, in particular the latest developments in Syria following the announcement of the withdrawal of the United States. Luxembourg shares with Turkey the goal of ending violence in Syria, combating terrorism, promoting stability and finding a lasting solution to the conflict. However, Minister Asselborn has expressed his concern about a possible unilateral Turkish operation in north-eastern Syria, which could divert action against Daesh and further destabilise an already extremely complex situation. "Syria has already experienced too many military operations, a solution to the conflict can be found only through the diplomatic channel" concluded minister Asselborn.
As part of the official visit, Minister Asselborn also laid a wreath at the Atatürk Mausoleum, the founder of the Turkish Republic, and visited the damaged parts of parliament following the coup attempt.
Tomorrow, Minister Asselborn will visit the cities of Gaziantep and Kilis, near the Syrian border, to meet local authorities and visit various projects for Syrian refugees co-financed by Luxembourg to thus take stock of the situation on the ground.