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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Western Help Needed for Turkish Success

The judge in the free-speech trial of the Turkish author Orhan Pamuk dismissed all charges last week, sparing Turkey further international scorn. But the case was thrown out on a technicality. Turkey still needs to change the repressive law under which Pamuk was arrested and drop similar cases against dozens of other Turks.

The most powerful motivation for making such changes has always been Turkey's desire to join the European Union. But public support for joining is now waning, down from a high of 85 percent to 65 percent recently. In part, that reflects a lingering bitterness over eleventh-hour issues that tainted the start of Turkey's membership talks.

The European Union repeatedly stressed to Turkey the political need to reunify Cyprus, but then failed to deliver the support of Greek Cypriots, who voted against reunification. Austria tried to block the talks, France promised its citizens that they would ultimately have the chance to veto Turkey's membership, and prominent Germans nattered on about a "privileged partnership" for Turkey, rather than full membership.

Feeling slighted, a segment of the Turkish public is receptive to a vocal minority that is trying to build a nationalist wave against pro-European, reform-minded politicians. Bringing cases like the one against Pamuk is part of that strategy -- it's a sure way to provoke an international outcry at a time when some Turks are resentful of criticism.

Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, must convince his people not to give up on the reforms that precede union membership. And Washington and Brussels need to help him. The United States should remind Turkey's generals, traditionally friendly with Washington, that continued support of liberalizing reforms will help usher Turkey into the 21st century. Washington and Brussels should also renew pressure on the Greek Cypriots for reunification and reward Turkish Cypriots, economically and politically, for their efforts.

Such a Western initiative on Cyprus could take the sting out of a coming vote in the Turkish Parliament to expand Turkey's trade treaty with Europe to the union's 10 newest members, including Cyprus. The treaty is vital, but would be seen by some Turks as a de facto recognition of a divided Cyprus.

Erdogan did not create that bind; indeed, he made all the right moves to reunify the island. But nationalists in Turkey are already playing up the issue as an example of the government selling out Turkish interests to please Europe. Erdogan needs to push back, with a little help from his friends.

This comment first appeared as an editorial in The New York Times.