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European Leaders Respond Cautiously to Turkey Vote


FILE - German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, and German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, left, arrive for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin, April 12, 2017.

Germany said on Monday the close result in Turkey's referendum on expanding Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's powers was a big responsibility for him to bear and showed how divided Turkish society was.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel also said Turkish authorities needed to address concerns about the content and procedure of Sunday's referendum raised by a panel of European legal experts.

Erdogan declared a narrow victory in the vote, which marked the biggest overhaul of modern Turkish politics. Opponents said it was marred by irregularities and they would challenge the result.

Merkel and Gabriel, whose country has about 3 million residents of Turkish background, said they noted the preliminary result showing a victory for the "Yes" camp. Official results are expected within 12 days.

"The German government... respects the right of Turkish citizens to decide on their own constitutional order," they said in a statement.

"The tight referendum result shows how deeply divided Turkish society is and that means a big responsibility for the Turkish leadership and for President Erdogan personally."

They expected Ankara to have a "respectful dialogue" with all parts of Turkish society and its political spectrum after a tough campaign.

German integration commissioner Aydan Ozoguz warned against criticizing Turks living in Germany across the board over how they voted, telling regional newspaper Saarbruecker Zeitung that only around 14 percent of all German Turks living in Germany had voted "Yes" and added that most migrants had not voted.

German integration commissioner Aydan Ozoguz warned against criticizing Turks living in Germany over how they voted, telling regional newspaper Saarbruecker Zeitung that only around 14 percent of all German Turks living in Germany had voted "yes" and added that most migrants had not voted.

EU talks

Germany's comments were echoed in France, where President Francois Hollande said: "It's up to the Turks and them alone to decide on how they organize their political institutions, but the published results show that Turkish society is divided about the planned deep reforms."

On Sunday, the European Commission said Turkey should seek a broad national consensus on constitutional amendments, given the narrow "Yes" majority and the extent of their impact. In March, the Venice Commission, a panel of legal experts at the Council of Europe, said the proposed changes to the constitution on which Turks voted, namely boosting Erdogan's power, represented a "dangerous step backwards" for democracy.

Merkel and Gabriel pointed to the Commission's reservations and said that, as a member of the Council of Europe and the OSCE security and human rights watchdog and an EU accession candidate, Turkey should quickly address those concerns.

"Political discussions about that need to take place as quickly as possible, both at the bilateral level and between the European institutions and Turkey," Merkel and Gabriel said.

In a separate statement, France's Foreign Ministry called on the Turkish government to respect the European Convention on Human Rights and its ban on the death penalty.

Erdogan told supporters on Sunday that Turkey could hold another referendum on reinstating the death penalty. Such a move would spell the end of Turkey's accession talks with the European Union.

Austria, which has repeatedly called for halting membership talks, called once more for them to stop.

"We can't just go back to the daily routine after the Turkey referendum. We finally need some honesty in the relationship between the EU and Turkey," said Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, adding the bloc should instead work on a "partnership Agreement."

During the campaign, Erdogan repeatedly attacked European countries, including Germany and the Netherlands, accusing them of "Nazi-like" tactics for banning his ministers from speaking to rallies of Turkish voters abroad.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek told Reuters on Monday he expected the "noise" between Ankara and Europe should die down after the European elections cycle. The French vote for a new president begins next Sunday. Germany votes in September.

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