Asia-Europe meeting closes in shadow of turbulent Turkish coup attempt | News | DW | 16.07.2016
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Asia-Europe meeting closes in shadow of turbulent Turkish coup attempt

ASEM has drawn to a close after a terror attack in France and an attempted coup in Turkey overshadowed the proceedings. Tokyo has put pressure on Beijing to honor a tribunal ruling on the South China Sea dispute.

Overshadowed by the attempted coup in Turkey, the biennial Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Mongolia's capital came to a close on Saturday with a call for more cooperation between the continents.

European Union leaders said they stood behind the "democratically elected government" of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and called for a swift return to Turkey's constitutional order.

"The tension in and challenges for Turkey cannot be solved with guns. A military coup has no place in modern Turkey," European Council President Donald Tusk said in closing remarks on Saturday.

"The question is what Turkey comes out of this crisis; how Turkey will deal with it will be crucial, also for relations with the EU. Our hope is to keep Turkey as a key partner," Tusk said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who attended the conference, was in constant contact with Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier over the developments in Turkey.

"Everything must be done to protect human lives," said Merkel's spokesman.

Erdogan is regaining control after a faction of Turkish soldiers attempted a coup late on Friday night. The troops said the putsch was launched to restore human rights and "restore order which was disrupted." Scores of people were killed during the skirmishes.

Row over South China Sea ruling

An overriding tension throughout the summit arose from a recent tribunal ruling on the South China Sea dispute.

Although the meeting's final statement did not specifically mention the South China Sea, it said that the leaders "reaffirmed their commitment" to maritime security as well as to settling disputes using the UN Convention on the the Law of Sea.

Japan also put pressure on China to respect the South China Sea ruling. In remarks on Saturday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the rule of law was "a universal principle that the international community must firmly maintain."

"I strongly hope the parties to the dispute comply with the award and lead to a peaceful solution of the dispute in South China Sea," he said.

The EU's Tusk also said he hoped the decision, made by the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, would help to solve territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

The PCA ruled in favor of the Philippines' sovereign rights to the waters. Beijing, which refused to take part in the arbitration, has deemed the verdict null and void.

"It is still not easy to agree with our Chinese partners on that issue - our talks were difficult and tough, but also promising," Tusk said, adding: "The EU will continue to speak out in support and upholding international law, especially the law of the sea."

Leaders also mourned the victims of a deadly truck attack in Nice, France, late on Thursday, which claimed scores of lives, including numerous children.

The ASEM summit, which celebrated its 20th anniversary, was established in 1996 to deepen relations between Asia and Europe.

rs/jm (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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