Erdogan pledges to put EU ties ‘back on track’

Published January 13, 2021Updated January 13, 2021 09:01am
Turkish Pre­sident Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday he wanted to improve relations with the European Union and was hoping for the same “goodwill” from the 27-nation bloc. — AFP/File
Turkish Pre­sident Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday he wanted to improve relations with the European Union and was hoping for the same “goodwill” from the 27-nation bloc. — AFP/File

ANKARA: Turkish Pre­sident Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday he wanted to improve relations with the European Union and was hoping for the same “goodwill” from the 27-nation bloc.

Erdogan’s more assertive foreign policy has rankled Brussels and led to escalations with Greece in the eastern Mediterranean and France in Libya and the Middle East.

But the strong-willed Turkish leader — facing the threat of sanctions from Europe and a tougher line from US President-elect Joe Biden — struck a conciliatory note in a meeting with EU ambassadors in Ankara. “We are ready to put our relations back on track,” Erdogan told the ambassadors.

“We expect our European friends to show the same goodwill.” Turkey and Greece this week agreed to address their long-standing dispute over maritime borders at so-called exploratory talks in Istanbul on January 25.

The meeting will be the first since negotiations between the two uneasy Nato neighbours broke down after 60 fruitless rounds stretching 14 years in 2016.

“We believe that the exploratory talks with Greece... will be the harbinger of a new era,” Erdogan said.

Erdogan added that he was open to better relations with Paris after months of personal feuds with French President Emmanuel Macron. “We want to save our relations with France from tensions,” he said.

Erdogan began to soften his rhetoric after EU leaders decided last month to expand the list of Turkish targets for sanctions because of Ankara’s “unilateral actions” in contested eastern Mediterranean waters.

The punitive steps could complicate Turkey’s growing economic problems and shake Erdogan’s popularity after 18 years of rule as prime minister and president.

But Ankara and EU officials are about to launch a rare round of shuttle diplomacy that could set their relations on a more constructive course.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu will visit Brussels on January 21 while European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen and European Council president Charles Michel are expected in Turkey by the end of the month.

The road to smoother ties is unlikely to be straightforward and will involve overcoming years of mutual mistrust.

French European Min­ister Clement Beaune said on Tuesday that targeted EU sanctions against Turkish individuals would still go ahead in the coming days and weeks. “EU firmness is bearing fruit,” Beaune said in Brussels.

“We are hearing the signals and statements from Turkey,” said Beaune. “Let’s see if they bear any fruit. We have already experienced similar episodes.”

Erdogan noted on Tuesday that Turkey’s drive to join the European Union — formally launched in 2005 but effectively suspended — could gain fresh impetus after Britain’s departure from the bloc.

“The uncertainty incr­eased with Brexit could be overcome with Turkey taking its deserved place in the EU family,” Erdogan said.

“We have never abandoned full membership (goal) despite double standards and injustice.” Turkey’s accession talks have been sidelined by European concerns about Erdogan’s human rights record — especially the sweeping crackdown he launched after surviving a failed coup in 2016.

Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2021

Opinion

Baloch paradox
15 Jan 2021

Baloch paradox

‘Why couldn’t my village have a school?’
Salute the Hazaras
Updated 14 Jan 2021

Salute the Hazaras

The nation has reason to be grateful to the Hazaras for setting models of forbearance in the face of calamity.

Editorial

Updated 15 Jan 2021

Trump’s impeachment

The impeachment move may well remain symbolic in nature; even then, the symbolism itself is a potent one.
15 Jan 2021

Economic growth

MOODY’S Investors Service expects Pakistan’s economy to grow by a modest 1.5pc in FY2021, much higher than the...
15 Jan 2021

Madressah students

GETTING students of madressahs involved in politics is a bad idea, primarily because seminarians should be...
14 Jan 2021

Afghan dialogue

AS the Afghan Taliban and the government in Kabul try and reach a modus vivendi in Doha, it is essential that the...
14 Jan 2021

Polio dangers

IN the first incident of its kind this year, a policeman guarding polio vaccinators was gunned down in KP’s Karak...