Turkish premier Erdogan ducks issue of possible party ban
(dpa) - Visiting Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan Wednesday said it would be better "not to comment" on the recent decision by the Constitutional Court that it would investigate his party over anti-secular activities.
It is an "ongoing legal procedure and it would not be right for me to comment," Erdogan said after a lecture on Turkey and the European Union at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs.
He added that it was up to the EU and others to "evaluate" the ramifications of a possible ban against his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) that he earlier said had "broad" support in Turkey, citing its electoral gains at the polls.
The AKP party team's goal was to "maintain democratic and political stability," Erdogan told members of the diplomatic corps, dignitaries and reporters.
Erdogan's 30-minute speech underlined Turkey's strategic importance in the region and how it as a possible future member would contribute to making the 27-nation bloc "a strong and global actor."
Erdogan, who arrived in Sweden late Tuesday, earlier met King Carl XVI Gustaf and visited parliament for a meeting with the members of the parliament committee on European Union affairs and the committee on foreign affairs as well as speaker Per Westerberg.
His agenda included bilateral talks with Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt with a focus on Turkey's membership talks with the EU, which Sweden has strongly spoken in favour of.
The Turkish leader welcomed Sweden's support and said that "EU membership has always been a strategic target."
Asked about Ankara's patience with the membership talks, he replied that "if patience is enough you will definitely reach your goal."
The lecture and questions from the public also touched on the issue of minorities like the Kurds, Cyprus, and the recent Turkish military operation against strongholds of the PKK rebel movement in northern Iraq.
Erdogan said Article 301 of the criminal code, often used against writers for "insulting Turkishness," was "being re-written" and "soon no longer would top Turkey-EU discussions."
On the incursions into northern Iraq, he said "we want these terrorist camps to be dissolved," claiming a successful operation.
Outside the Institute, a handful of Kurdish demonstrators waved flags and shouted "Long live Kurdistan" as the premier's motorcade left the area.