EU's Ashton has close eye on Turkish unrest

June 10, 2013 at 12:25 PM

BRUSSELS, June 10 (UPI) -- Turkish ties to the European Union depend in part on the right to freedom of expression and assembly, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said.

Members of the European Parliament last week said they welcomed Turkish statements about the government's commitment to democracy, but expressed concern about "the absence of a culture of compromise and the failure to tolerate dissent in Turkish democracy."

Ashton said she had lingering concerns about Turkey's commitment to democracy following the violence tied to nation-wide protests.

"The continuing tensions underline the need for restraint on all sides and the importance of finding a quick solution based on dialogue, mutual respect, understanding and inclusiveness," she said in a statement Sunday. "Open and sustained engagement of the authorities is essential to reinforcing democracy, building confidence and avoiding escalation."

The Turkish government has tried to allay broad European concerns about political affairs and national security as it moves closer to the European community.

Turkish protests erupted over plans to tear down a historic park in Istanbul. The BBC reports police fired tear gas on protesters in Ankara last weekend as demonstrations take on a political tone.

The European Investment Bank said Monday it was providing $264 million to Turkish state railways to help upgrade a rail line linking Ankara and Istanbul.

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