Tur­key has ‘many al­ter­na­tives to EU’

Arab News - - INTERNATIONAL -

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)

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