Boris Johnson defends Turkey’s Erdogan on death penalty

U-turn Boris goes all in for Turkey joining the EU

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Speaking of being unfit for office, Boris Johnson has given another masterclass in diplomacy by suggesting Turkey could join the EU even if President Erdogan brings back the death penalty.

At a meeting in Brussels on Monday, the Foreign Secretary responded to criticism of Erdogan’s post-coup attempt crackdown and mooted return to capital punishment by warning about the risks of overreaction.

Fair enough, you might think. Except that Johnson wasn’t talking about overreaction by Erdogan, but by the European Union.

As the Financial Times reports, Johnson told reporters ahead of the meeting:

“Turkey remains a matter of some concern, and it’s very very important that we should not push Turkey into a corner, we should not overreact in a way that I think is against our collective interest to what’s going on in Turkey.

Remember they’ve had a very difficult situation there, a very serious attempted coup.”

He apparently also ‘noted’ that Britain and other EU countries still had capital punishment on the statute books until the 1980s and 90s.

But wait a moment. Isn’t this the same Boris Johnson who warned 70 million Turks would flock to Britain after Turkey joins the EU in his Brexit campaign?

Whose colleagues stoked racism by claiming more Turkish immigrants means more crime? And who wrote a not-very-good limerick for a Spectator competition about Erdogan having sex with a goat?

Yet here he is, first promising to help Turkey join the EU (that was in September), and now going further and suggesting we not ‘overreact’ to 100,000 arrests, political opponents being jailed, and the possible return of the death penalty.

Aside from the gobsmacking dishonestly and immorality, what sort of message does this send to any other foreign leader who might like to try his luck as an autocrat?

Actually, we don’t have to speculate, since Johnson’s message to Donald Trump was that his critics should stop whinging and look on the bright side.

How to explain all this? Perhaps Johnson was telling the truth for a change when he said back in June:

“Frankly I don’t mind whether Turkey joins the EU provided the UK leaves the EU.”

His slight movement on this point – from opposition and ambivalence to support and apologism – might not, for a change, be a contradiction. After all, if Brexit is what matters most, two things could be beneficial for the cause.

The first would be Turkey closing in on EU membership, handing eurosceptic parties a campaigning tool, and thus weakening Britain’s negotiating partners in Paris and Berlin.

The second would be strong Anglo-Turkish relations upon which to build trade links outside of the European Union. (If I’m right about this, we can expect Johnson to start making overtures to Russia’s Vladimir Putin, who also wants to undermine the EU and forge economic ties with nations on its periphery.)

Yet again, it seems there’s no end to the the glories of this brave new world, as the British Foreign Secretary appears willing to sacrifice human rights in Turkey (and beyond) on the alter of Brexit.

Adam Barnett is staff writer for Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBarnett13 

See: People’s Democracy declares ‘the end of democracy in Turkey’ after MP arrests

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