Belgian FM says further crackdown must be avoided in Turkey after referendum

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Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders attends a meeting with his Tunisian counterpart Khemaies Jhinaoui (unseen) during an official visit in the capital Tunis on March 1, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / FETHI BELAID

Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said on Monday the European Union should be concerned about the outcome of a referendum in Turkey and observe it closely in order to avoid a further crackdown on dissent.

Speaking during a broadcast by the Premiere radio station on Monday, Reynders said EU member countries should follow with concern how the new presidential powers are used in Turkey. “We should be vigilant as there is already existing concern that emerged after the crackdown in the wake of the attempted coup [last summer in Turkey]. Any further clampdown must be avoided with the advent of the new presidential powers,” he added.

According to the unofficial results of Sunday’s referendum, the “yes” camp won by persuading only 51.4 percent of voters on a constitutional package that will expand President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s powers and switch Turkey to an executive presidency.

EU-Turkey relations were strained over violations of human rights and the silencing of dissent in Turkey following the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

The tensions further escalated after the cancellation of Turkish ministers’ campaign rallies in EU countries in March.

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