Turkey pledges loyalty to EU and Nato
Turkey’s rapprochement with Russia does not mean it will turn away from Nato or the EU, foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said.
“The allegations that Turkey is turning its back on the West by normalising relations with Russia are unfounded," Cavusoglu told Greek newspaper Kathimerini in an interview published on Tuesday (30 August).
"Turkey’s relationship with Russia is not an alternative to its partnership and alliance with the West. Our responsibilities and commitments toward our Nato allies and friends remain firmly in place.”
“We continue to uphold our commitments to the EU, aiming for full membership, and expect that the EU also does the same.”
Relations with Russia collapsed last November, when Turkey shot down a Russian jet it said had crossed into its airspace from Syria.
But Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan met Russia’s Vladimir Putin in St Petersburg on 9 August to mend fences after apologising for what Cavusoglu called the “undesired incident of 24 November”.
The Erdogan-Putin meeting came amid fraying ties between Turkey and its Western allies.
EU states and the US have criticised Erdogan’s internal crackdown after a failed coup of 15 July. Meanwhile, Turkey has accused the US of sheltering Fethullah Gulen, an exiled Islamic preacher it says organised the coup.
Turkey’s recent incursion into northern Syria, designed to push US-backed Kurdish forces away from its borders, also threatens to make matters worse.
Cavusoglu told the Greek newspaper Athens should “take the right decision” on extraditing eight Turkish military officers who claimed asylum after the 15 July putsch, and added that EU states should expel Gulen sympathisers.
“Those involved in terrorist acts … should not be able to seek refuge in third countries under the pretext of asylum requests,” he said.
“We expect the support of our friends and allies in our requests for extradition and deportation of Feto [Gulenist] elements living in third countries.”
He said Turkey was “disappointed” by EU remarks “questioning our legal measures” and by “threatening statements about our accession process”.
He said the EU reaction had “damaged” its image in the eyes of Turkish people and could “fuel extremism”, but he said the increasing number of high-level visits by EU politicians to Turkey were “a tangible sign of the solidarity we would like to see".
The minister added that if the EU wanted Turkey to keep on stopping migrants from going to Greece it should make good on its promise on visa-free travel.
“Turkey cannot continue on its own to stop irregular migration toward the EU while the EU does not assume its obligations. We expect visa liberalisation for Turkish citizens at the latest in October 2016,” he said.
Turkish assistance has considerably reduced the flow of people.
The EU has said it will only grant the visa deal if Turkey amends its terrorist laws so that they cannot be used to harass journalists and academics, but Turkey has refused to take the step.