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Erdogan rejects 'lessons in democracy' from Western leaders

Turkish President criticises parodying of him in European media as Davutoglu calls Merkel to complain
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks as he inaugurates the Diyanet Islamic Cultural Center in Lanham, Maryland (AFP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday lashed out at the West for giving Turkey "lessons in democracy," amid mounting US and EU criticism over a clampdown on press freedoms under his rule.

"Those who attempt to give us lessons in democracy and human rights must first contemplate their own shame," Erdogan told a meeting of the Turkish Red Crescent in Ankara.

His comments came after US President Barack Obama said Turkey's approach towards the media was taking it "down a path that would be very troubling".

Erdogan's government has recently seized control of major opposition media groups and newspapers while also bringing legal cases against hundreds of journalists, lawmakers, academics, lawyers and NGOs.

Two journalists from the leading opposition daily Cumhuriyet face life in prison after being charged with revealing state secrets over a story accusing the government of seeking to illicitly deliver arms to rebels in Syria.

In the recent crackdown, Turkish authorities have seized control of opposition daily Zaman, Koza Ipek Holding, which owns the Cihan News Agency, Millet group and Bugun newspaper, and the pro-Kurdish IMC TV station.

Erdogan met with Obama in Washington last week but said the US president had not raised the media issue in talks and added he was "saddened" that his American counterpart criticised him behind his back.

The president said he had pointed out in other meetings on his trip to Washington that there was press freedom in Turkey, saying that some publications had branded him a "thief" and a "killer" without being shut down.

"Such insults and threats are not permitted in the West," he claimed.

Davutoglu calls Merkel

In a telephone conversation earlier, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that he was unhappy about the raft of stories criticising Erdogan in German media in recent weeks.

Davutoglu complained such publications "were incompatible with freedom of the press" and said there should be an end to the publication of such "unacceptable" material, his office said.

German weekly Der Spiegel ran a cover story deeply critical of Erdogan in its latest issue, with a caricature of the Turkish president - whom the magazine called "the wild man of the Bosphorus" - shaking his fist.

The headline on the story read: "The fearsome friend: President Erdogan's crusade against freedom and democracy."

Turkey last month summoned Germany's ambassador to protest a two-minute song lampooning Erdogan that was broadcast on German television:

Erdogan backs Azerbaijan over conflict

On Monday Erdogan predicted that Ankara's ally Azerbaijan would "one day" regain control of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, as deadly clashes between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces over the region raged for a third day.

"We are today standing side-by-side with our brothers in Azerbaijan. But this persecution will not continue forever. Karabakh will one day return to its original owner. It will be Azerbaijan's," Erdogan told a conference in Ankara broadcast live on television.

Relations between Turkey and Armenia have long been frosty, largely due to Turkey's continuing refusal to recognise the 1915 Armenian genocide.

Azerbaijan on Monday warned Armenia against targeting civilians in one of the deadliest outbreaks of violence between the former Soviet republics since a 1994 peace treaty.

“If Armenian forces continue targeting settlements and civilians, Armenia will bear the responsibility for the actions of Azerbaijani army, which will ensure the safety of civilians,” Azeri foreign ministry spokesman Hikmet Hajiyev said in a statement.

At the weekend, 12 Azerbaijani troops and more than 100 Armenian soldiers were killed in fighting over occupied Karabakh, which was declared an independent republic by ethnic Armenian separatists in the early 1990s.

Fighting over the region has left over 30,000 people dead since the 90s. The original conflict saw foreign Islamist militants fresh from fighting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan joining the Azerbaijani side, while Russia provided heavy weaponry to the Karabakh Armenians.

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