Turkiye, Politics, Europe

'EU must forgo shortsightedness, act bravely to improve ties with Turkiye'

President Erdogan calls on EU to stop 'sabotage of Turkish-European relations by hiding behind pretext of solidarity within bloc'

Merve Aydogan   | 13.01.2022
'EU must forgo shortsightedness, act bravely to improve ties with Turkiye'

ANKARA

This year the EU should cast aside its "shortsightedness" and "act more bravely to improve ties" with Turkiye, the nation’s president said on Thursday.

In an annual meeting with the ambassadors of EU member states, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said relations between Turkiye and the EU are being "sabotaged" by hiding behind a pretext of solidarity within the bloc.

He said the EU must work against such an approach, adding that some member states should "abandon their approach of solving their problems with Turkiye in the corridors of the union."

Turkiye has “worked towards establishing a dialogue and a diplomatic relationship (with the EU). In addition to high-level visits and talks, we also took part in high-level dialogues on climate change, security, migration, and healthcare,” said Erdogan.

But these many positive steps by Turkiye “did not meet the response we had expected from the EU,” said the president, decrying the “stalling tactics” from the bloc it faced instead.

Saying that significant issues in the EU such as "establishing a joint migration policy, (and tackling) xenophobia and animosity towards Islam" were pushed aside, Erdogan said the bloc has "taken no noteworthy steps" on these pressing issues.

"Anybody who has an objective perspective to such problems acknowledges that Turkiye is a key country in overcoming such problems as the EU is facing," he noted.

As a candidate country for EU accession, Erdogan said Turkiye continues its negotiations with the bloc in areas of "supply chains, terrorism, migration, security, defense, xenophobia, animosity towards Islam, healthcare, and energy supply security."

"Turkiye plays a problem-solving role," he said, adding that the country's ties with the bloc must make progress in every area.

In Turkiye's struggle with the migration crisis, Erdogan said his country had not received any "noteworthy support" from the EU.

He underlined that with its cross-border operations, Turkiye had prevented northern Syria from "turning into terror hub, exporting terrorists to the entire world."

"Turkiye, with its presence there (Syria), has been contributing to the preservation of Syria's territorial integrity, while averting new migration waves."

"The migration crisis would have deepened, casualties would have further increased, terror would have escalated and instability would have expanded to a much broader geography were it not for our efforts," said the Turkish president.

Syria has been ravaged by a civil war since early 2011 when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protesters.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than 10 million displaced, according to UN estimates.

Since 2016, Ankara has launched a trio of successful anti-terror operations across its border in northern Syria to prevent the formation of a terror corridor and enable the peaceful settlement of residents: Euphrates Shield (2016), Olive Branch (2018), and Peace Spring (2019).

In its more than 35-year terror campaign against Turkiye, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Turkiye, the US, and the EU – has been responsible for the deaths of over 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants. The YPG is the PKK’s Syrian offshoot.

Erdogan also addressed the Cyprus dispute, asserting that a solution could only be reached by "acknowledging the sovereign equality and equal international status of the Turkish Cypriot people."

"The Greek Cypriots have been unable to rid themselves of the mentality that they are the sole owners of the island, disregarding the Turkish Cypriots," Erdogan said.

He also accused the EU of acting as the Greek Cypriot administration's "mouthpiece" and of ignoring the rights of the Turkish Cypriots as "an inseparable part of the very same geography."

"If the EU really wants to contribute to a solution, it must fulfill the commitments it made back in 2004 and recognize the existence and will of the Turkish Cypriots, as well as making use of the solution proposal put forward in Geneva," Erdogan stressed.

He was referring to informal talks in April last year during which the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus presented a two-state solution backed by Ankara, based on sovereign equality and equal international status of the two sides on the island.

Decades-long dispute

Cyprus has been mired in a decades-long dispute between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, despite a series of diplomatic efforts by the UN to achieve a comprehensive settlement.

Ethnic attacks starting in the early 1960s forced Turkish Cypriots to withdraw into enclaves for their safety.

In 1974, a Greek Cypriot coup aimed at Greece’s annexation of the island led to Turkiye’s military intervention as a guarantor power to protect Turkish Cypriots from persecution and violence. As a result, the TRNC was founded in 1983.

It has seen an on-and-off peace process in recent years, including a failed 2017 initiative in Switzerland under the auspices of guarantor countries Turkiye, Greece, and the UK.

The Greek Cypriot administration entered the European Union in 2004, the same year Greek Cypriots thwarted a UN plan to end the longstanding dispute.

Ahead of Erdogan's address, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also met with the EU envoys, saying later on Twitter that they did a broad assessment of “current foreign policy developments."

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