October 25, 2016

EU making serious mistakes over failed Turkish coup: Turkish minister

Ankara: Turkey said on Wednesday the European Union was making grave mistakes in its response to Turkey`s failed coup and was losing support for EU membership from Turks as a result.

Ankara has argued that the United States and Europe have shown undue concern over a crackdown following the abortive July 15 coup but indifference to the putsch itself.

More than 240 people, many of them civilians, were killed when a faction of the army commandeered tanks and warplanes in an attempt to topple the government. More than 60,000 people in the military, judiciary, civil service and education have been detained, suspended or placed under investigation since.

“Unfortunately the EU is making some serious mistakes. They have failed the test following the coup attempt,” foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in an interview with state-run Anadolu Agency.

“Support for EU membership used to be around 50 percent of the population, I assume it is around 20 percent now.”

Turkish accession talks have progressed only slowly since beginning in 2005, with several key EU countries expressing doubts the country could be ready for membership in the foreseeable future. Similarly, support in Turkey itself for the ambition has fluctuated.

President Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday took a big step toward normalising relations with Russia, meeting President Vladimir Putin in a visit to St Petersburg, his first foreign trip since the failed putsch.

The visit was closely watched in the West, where some fear that both men, powerful leaders critics say are ill-disposed to dissent, might use their rapprochement to exert pressure on Washington and the European Union and stir tensions within NATO, the military alliance of which Turkey is a member.

Cavusoglu said Turkey`s rapprochement with Russia was not intended to unsettle Europe or the United States. However, he also warned the West against the possibility of one day “losing” Turkey.

“We are not amending our relations with Russia to send a message to the West,” he told Anadolu. “If the West loses Turkey one day, it will not be because of Turkey`s relations with Russia, China, or the Islamic world, but rather because of themselves.”

Putin on Tuesday said Moscow would gradually phase out sanctions against Ankara, imposed after the Turks shot down a Russian fighter jet near the Syrian border nine months ago, and that bringing ties to their pre-crisis level was the priority.

Cavusoglu also indicated that Turkey could find common ground with Russia on Syria, where they have been on opposing sides of the conflict. Moscow backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey says Assad is a dictator who must be removed.

“We think similarly regarding the ceasefire, humanitarian aid and (the need for) political resolution in Syria. We may think differently on how to implement the ceasefire,” he said.

He also said that Turkey was building a “strong mechanism” with Russia to find a solution in Syria, and a delegation including the foreign ministry, military and intelligence officials will go to Russia on Wednesday for talks.

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