Turkey defied pressure from the European Union on Thursday to amend its anti-terrorism laws, saying that a suicide bomb attack at Istanbul airport this week that killed 42 people provided further vindication of its tough stance.
But Turkish officials, in Brussels for further talks on their country’s decades-long bid to join the EU, also argued that the bloc needed Turkey, with its economic and geopolitical weight, more than ever after Britain’s vote last week to leave.
The EU repeated its demand that Turkey modify its anti-terrorism laws, saying they limit freedom of expression and allow indiscriminate arrests of activists, but Ankara showed no sign of budging.
“Turkey today is fighting against terrorism,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a joint news conference with senior EU officials, referring to Tuesday’s gun and bomb attack by three suspected Islamic State militants.
“New demands directed at Turkey would encourage terrorists. We cannot make any changes in our anti-terror laws,” he said.
Turkish police have detained 13 people, three of them foreigners, in raids across Istanbul in connection with the attack, the deadliest in a series of suicide bombings in Turkey this year.
The EU has tied the changes in the anti-terrorism laws to progress in Turkey’s bid to win for its citizens the right to travel in Europe without visas. That right is part of a bigger deal whereby Turkey also promises to take back Syrian and other migrants who leave its shores for the EU.