Turkey shares many of the European Union’s strategic interests and goals, the Turkish foreign minister said.
“As a candidate for EU membership, Turkey shares many of the bloc’s strategic interests and goals. Our borders are Europe’s and NATO’s external borders and we, too, want to build state and societal resilience,” Mevlut Cavusoglu wrote in an article for Politico.
Addressing Turkey’s significance for the EU, Cavusoglu said the country’s diplomatic and security presence has defended Europe for generations.
“In the future too, Europe will be safe and prosperous with Turkey’s contributions,” he added.
The foreign minister, however, stressed that such responsibility of helping to “stabilize our common neighborhood and set it on course toward sustainable peace, stability and development,” is a task for all.
Cavusoglu criticized the “strong rhetoric and maximalist positions from certain EU member countries on issues with high strategic relevance” and stated that such positions are “narrowing the scope for meaningful cooperation.”
EU’s stance on Libyan warlord Haftar
Noting three cases that are hindering Turkey-EU cooperation, the minister said: “EU failed to come up with concerted action based on its core values” regarding warlord Khalifa Haftar’s offensive against the country’s legitimate, U.N.-recognized government in Tripoli.
“While putschist militias and mercenaries continue to be heavily reinforced, the EU’s Operation Irini in the Mediterranean (which has the stated aim of enforcing the arms embargo on Libya) is practically sanctioning the legitimate government,” he said.
Turkish foreign minister further called on Europe to “stand up and cry foul in the face of the shocking discovery of mass graves in Tarhuna containing the bodies of victims allegedly killed by Haftar’s forces”.
“Meanwhile, the blockade on Libya’s oil resources is depriving the Libyan people of a crucial resource,” he added.
He stressed that “leaving Libya at the mercy of a warlord was, and remains, a gross mistake,” noting “Turkey’s technical and training assistance to the legitimate government in Libya upon its request has changed the balance on the ground and increased the viability of diplomatic efforts like the Berlin Conference.”
Cavusoglu also addressed France’s false accusations on Turkey about an incident involving its warship and Turkish vessels in the Eastern Mediterranean.
“When those claims were not verified by NATO, Paris withdrew from an important alliance operation. Others will judge whether that was a good strategic choice,” he said.
The Turkish minister also spoke about Syrian refugees and recalled that his country has spent “more than $40 billion serving the needs of 3.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.”
“We cannot be expected to take more. In addition, we have provided 402,000 Syrian refugees with the chance to return to their homeland in areas taken back by Turkish troops from Daesh (ISIS) and PKK/YPG terrorists,” he said.
Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean issue
“Maximalist and unilateral claims by Greece and Greek Cypriots violate the sovereign rights of both Turkey and Turkish Cypriots,” Cavusoglu stressed.
He once again expressed Turkey’s readiness for a dialogue to find a just, equitable and peaceful solution in the Eastern Mediterranean, and said: “Unfortunately, the response has been hostility to Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.”
“This leaves us with no choice but to continue our drilling and exploration activities in the Eastern Mediterranean to protect our national interests and the equal rights of Turkish Cypriots.”
Cavusoglu said these three cases are “emerging streak of abuse and estrangement of Turkey through unsustainable policies” and added that the country has “also been let down in the EU accession process and in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt in 2016.”
With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic across the region and the world, Cavusoglu said the outbreak could “generate new instabilities or exacerbate existing ones.”
“We must not be sucked into the maelstrom that is pitting us against each other. Europe needs constructive strategies prioritizing win-win formulas for Turkey, rather than reactive steps for the sake of EU solidarity and the narrow-minded expectations of a few countries.”
Underscoring that there is an indisputable common ground to build upon, Turkish minister called on Europe to “look ahead and build an inclusive framework to capitalize on the genuine transformative power of Turkey-EU cooperation in our common neighborhood.”
“That would be the right mindset — especially in the troubled waters of the post-pandemic era,” he added.
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