Turkey has ‘many alternatives to EU’
ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday said his country has not yet given up on its ambition to join the European Union but has “many other alternatives” if the stalled process goes nowhere.
Erdogan said the non-binding vote at the European Parliament “upset” Turkey, adding it did not currently have “positive” feelings on the accession talks.
If the EU path is blocked, Erdogan said, “we’ll continue our road by evaluating one of those alternatives,” without naming them.
“I don’t find it right to say it here but we are of course continuing our talks with those alternatives. We have not yet closed the European Union book right now,” Erdogan told an international conference in Istanbul. “But nobody should forget that Turkey always has many other alternatives.”
Last week the European Parliament backed a freeze in Turkey’s membership talks, angering Erdogan who threatened to retaliate by rupturing a migrant deal curbing the flow of refugees to Europe.
The deal has substantially helped reduce the wave of migrants since it was signed in March.
Turkey formally applied to become an EU member in 1987 and accession talks only began in 2005, even though Ankara’s aspirations to become part of the bloc dates back to the 1960s.
“There is an EU that has kept Turkey waiting at its door for 53 years,” Erdogan said.
“I say it, you (the EU) are not the only fine Indian fabric around!” he said, using a traditional Turkish idiom equivalent to the English “there are many more fish in the sea.”
“You applied a similar kind of pressure on many countries in the world. What happened? You destroyed them? With God’s help, you cannot destroy Turkey.”
Tensions in Turkish-EU relations have built up since the failed July 15 coup attempt that aimed to oust Erdogan.
Authorities have responded to the failed putsch by arresting or dismissing tens of thousands of people from state institutions to cleanse the “virus” of US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara blames for the coup but he denies the allegations.
Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel told AFP in an interview that “the values on which the union is built are being trampled on a daily basis, but I hope that Turkey will become again the partner in which I used to have confidence.”
“The situation is worrying,” he said, while refusing to back a freeze in the accession negotiations.
Visiting Brussels, Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik described the European Parliament vote as the “most unjust resolu- tion in history” and urged solidarity instead.
In another development, Turkish prosecutors have demanded multiple life sentences for almost 50 alleged failed putschists charged with seeking to assassinate Erdogan in a plot he says left him 15 minutes from death, state media reported Tuesday.
Turkish prosecutors have demanded multiple life sentences for almost 50 alleged failed putschists charged with seeking to assassinate President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a plot he says left him 15 minutes from death, state media reported Tuesday.
Erdogan, who was holidaying at a hotel in the upmarket Aegean resort of Marmaris with his family on the night of the July 15 coup, had rushed to Istanbul by plane to escape the conspiracy.
Forty-seven suspects — 44 of whom are under arrest while three are on the run — have been charged with 17 different crimes including an “attempt to assassinate the president,” the state-run Anadolu news agency said.
Prosecutors have sought six life sentences for each of the suspects, who include an alleged “assassination team” of 37 soldiers suspected of seeking to execute the plan.
No date has yet been given for the start of the trial.
Turkish officials say the plot to kill Erdogan was a key part of the plan to seize control, a plot they say was masterminded by the US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.
Commerce and Investment Minister Majid Al-Qassabi led the Saudi delegation to the 7th Bosphorus Summit in Istanbul on Tuesday. (SPA)