Despite disagreement on human rights issues, press freedom and the rule of law, Switzerland and Turkey have agreed to continue their dialogue.
Following a meeting with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, outside Bern on Thursday, Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter stressed that some progress had been made in ongoing talks on the repatriation of immigrants, trade and the protection of cultural goods.
However, a number of issues remain where more talks are needed, according to Burkhalter.
He specified that the planned introduction of the death penalty in the wake of the failed coup attempt in July “is not a solution to counter violence”, adding that the imposition of a state of emergency in Turkey and the fight against crime had to respect legal norms.
For his part, Çavuşoğlu insisted that the Turkish people wanted the death penalty.
“In a democracy, you must not ignore the will of the people,” he said.
He justified the Turkish government’s handling of the coup attempt, including a crackdown on supporters of the movement of the cleric Fethullah Gülen.
He specifically denied that the arrest of journalists in Turkey was an attack on press freedom, but part of a necessary removal of government opponents and terrorists who have apparently infiltrated state institutions and the media.
Çavuşoğlu criticised the Swiss authorities for failing to protect the pro- Erdoğan members of the Turkish community.
The talks between Burkhalter and Çavuşoğlu also covered the conflict in Syria, the situation in Iraq and in Cyprus.
Burkhalter rejected any allegations of pressure against Erdoğan supporters. “I don’t know what he [Çavuşoğlu] is referring to;” he told Swiss journalists. He added that the Swiss justice authorities were working according the country’s law.
Burkhalter said he also addressed in more general terms cases of diplomatic interference by Turkish officials in Switzerland against parliamentarians and protesters.
Nevertheless, Burkhalter stressed the importance of continuing a regular dialogue both on bilateral and multilateral issues as part of Switzerland’s activities on humanitarian aid and international law.
For his part, Çavuşoğlu welcomed an “open and frank” dialogue without being put under pressure from the outside.
Çavuşoğlu’s visit to Switzerland was initially planned for June, but had to be delayed because of the coup attempt in Turkey.
It took place under strict security in a government guest house outside the capital, Bern. Turkish state television broadcast part of the news conference live, but reportedly cut off early, leaving out questions by Swiss journalists.
The atmosphere in the press room felt tense and was not helped by the cumbersome process of translating of all the statements in Turkish and French.
Meanwhile, several dozen Kurdish protesters held a demonstration outside the seat of the Swiss foreign ministry in the city.