Tuesday

31st Mar 2020

US blames EU for Turkey foreign policy 'drift'

  • Hundreds of Turks protested in Brussels last week against the Israeli attack (Photo: Valentina Pop)

US defence minister Robert Gates said that the EU's refusal to accept Turkey as a member is partly to blame for Ankara's deteriorating relations with Israel and for pushing the country into the arms of Islamic states, a suggestion firmly rejected by Brussels.

"The deterioration in the relationship between Turkey and Israel over the past year or so is a matter of concern," Mr Gates told reporters in London.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or join as a group

The conservative Turkish government, whose relations with neighbouring Islamic states such as Syria and Iran have grown closer, has meanwhile put on freeze relations with its former regional ally Israel after nine of its citizens were killed by Israeli commandos on an aid flotilla bound for Gaza.

"I personally think that if there is anything to the notion that Turkey is, if you will, moving eastward, it is, in my view, in no small part because it was pushed, and pushed by some in Europe refusing to give Turkey the kind of organic link to the West that Turkey sought," he argued.

Traditionally a strong US ally and the only Muslim member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation since 1952, Turkey has consistently enjoyed Washington's support in its bid EU membership, for which it applied in 1987.

Formal accession negotiations began in 2005, but progress has been slow and Germany and France continue to speak of the alternative of a "privileged partnership" instead of full membership at the end of the process.

A spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton rejected Mr Gates' suggestion that there is any link between the EU membership negotiations and Turkey's strained relations with Israel.

"The EU has very good relations with both Turkey and Israel. Turkey is an EU candidate country and Israel an important partner. The bilateral relations between these two countries are not linked with the bilateral relations between the EU and each of these countries," Maja Kocijancic, Ms Ashton's spokeswoman told this website.

"As far as Turkey is concerned, progress in accession negotiations depends on the progress in reforms taking place in Turkey," she added.

Ties between Turkey and Israel have deteriorated in recent years, especially after Tel Aviv's 2008 bombardment of the Gaza Strip that killed some 1,400 civilians and the recent killing of the nine Turkish activists, which prompted Ankara to recall its ambassador, scrap joint military drills and say its relations "will never be as before."

But Turkey's relations with the US itself have also worsened over the last decade, particularly after its refusal to open its skies to international troops bound for Iraq.

Turkish foreign policy chief Ahmet Davutoglu also openly expressed his disappointment at Washington's reaction over the Israeli attack on the aid flotilla, which did not assign blame to the Jewish state and resulted in a watered down reaction from the UN Security Council.

In Saudi Arabia, contacting the EU is a crime

Women's rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul is facing trial. One of the allegations is contacting the EU delegation. Despite pressure from Brussels, Saudi Arabia remains unimpressed.

EU declares Africa 'most important' global partner

The European Commission has a new strategy for Africa. The proposal, whose details have yet to be worked out, spans broad issues like climate, energy, digital transformation, jobs, peace, governance, and migration.

News in Brief

  1. 12-year old Belgian girl dies of coronavirus
  2. EU Commission: no 'indefinite' emergency measures
  3. Denmark plans 'gradual' return to normal after Easter
  4. Globally over 780,000 cases of coronavirus, 37,000 deaths
  5. EU states losing 3% of GDP a month, IMF says
  6. Fruit pickers need to cross borders too, EU says
  7. Former Slovak minister to become EU envoy on Kosovo-Serbia
  8. Hungary's Orban wins rule-by-decree vote in parliament

Opinion

Trump's 'plan' for Israel will go against EU values

As someone who has been personally targeted by Benjamin Netanyahu's incitement against Arabs and Palestinians, Christians, Muslims and Druze, I still believe that peace is possible. But Donald Trump's 'plan' will be a gift to Netanyahu's campaign.

China spy suspect worked for EU for 30 years

The former EU ambassador suspected by German prosecutors of spying for China was Gerhard Sabathil, according to EU officials speaking on condition of anonymity.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking Europe’s Economy Circular – the time is now
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  3. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  4. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us