London: The Turkish government’s crackdown on supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the alleged mastermind of the failed July 15 coup, will continue “for some time”, deputy prime minister Numan Kurtulmus told Reuters on Friday.
More than 125,000 civil servants, academics, judges, police and others have been suspended or dismissed after the coup, which Ankara blamed on followers of Gulen, a US-based Muslim cleric. Gulen has denied the accusation and condemned the coup.
The purges along with questions over the rule of law in Turkey are seen as threats to the country’s already slowing economy and foreign investment flows. But asked if he saw risks to the economy from the crackdown, Kurtulmus said: “No”.
“It will continue — it’s a kind of fight. This organisation has been active for the last 40 years and they have infiltrated themselves into state organisations, so it will take some time,” he said.
Asked if he thought the purge was nearing its end, he said: “The fight will continue for some time,” without giving a time frame.
The crackdown and President Tayyip Erdogan’s drive for a stronger presidency have raised fears of a lurch towards authoritarianism, souring relations with the European Union.
European Union lawmakers have voted for a temporary halt to EU membership talks with Turkey because of Ankara’s “disproportionate” reaction to July’s failed coup.
Kurtulmus noted that Europe had failed to fulfil its side of a deal which had envisaged visa-free travel for Turkish citizens if Ankara acted to keep migrants away from Europe. The deal has helped slow the flood of refugees making their way to Europe from Syria and Iraq via Turkey.
“If the EU does not accept visa liberalisation, then we will unfortunately stop the agreement on the migration issue,” he said.
“The (EU parliament’s) decision does not necessarily mean Turkey will break the ties with the EU. We hope the talks will continue but from now on we will have our own agenda.”