Brussels has sought an explanation from Turkey for comments in which its president Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested mounting strain between the EU and Ankara could threaten the safety of Europeans.
The EU’s diplomatic service summoned Turkey’s ambassador to the bloc after Mr Erdogan said Europeans would be unable to “walk safely on the streets” in any part of the world if they did not change their attitude to his country.
The latest comments from Mr Erdogan follow tension with the German and Dutch governments after he compared them to Nazis for refusing to allow Turkish ministers to address rallies in their countries in support of a constitutional overhaul that will reinforce his powers.
A spokeswoman for Federica Mogherini, EU foreign policy chief, said Turkey’s ambassador had attended a meeting at the Brussels headquarters of the European External Action Service on Thursday afternoon. She declined comment on any explanation provided by the ambassador, saying the EU authorities were very serious about the safety of citizens.
“I can confirm that the meeting has taken place, that we take the comments very seriously because there could be grave consequences that this could have for the security of Europeans as well as our staff,” said Ms Mogherini’s spokeswoman.
No one was immediately available at Turkey’s diplomatic mission to the EU to respond to press queries.
Mr Erdogan has sharpened his rhetoric in advance of a referendum next month on constitutional changes that Europe’s top human rights body have criticised for taking Turkey towards “an authoritarian and personal regime.”
In comments to reporters in Ankara that were broadcast live on national television on Wednesday, Mr Erdogan said Turkey was “not a country you can pull and push around, not a country whose citizens you can drag on the ground.”
He added: “If Europe continues this way, no European in any part of the world can walk safely on the streets. Europe will be damaged by this. We, as Turkey, call on Europe to respect human rights and democracy.”