Turkey has called on the European Union to resume negotiations on Ankara’s accession to the 28-member bloc, after the talks halted following a failed military coup last July.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the plea on Monday, saying, “The EU is still a strategic choice for our country,” insisting that Ankara would not blindly accept the EU’s “inconsistent policies and double standards towards our country.”
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also called for the lifting of “artificial obstacles” to Turkey’s EU membership, and said Ankara expected “visa liberalization for Turkish citizens to be provided immediately.”
“We’ve played an important role in Europe’s past and will do so in the future,” Cavusoglu said, adding, “A Europe without Turkey is incomplete.”
Turkey has been trying to become an EU member since the 1960s. Formal EU accession talks began in 2005, but the process has been plagued by problems.
The EU has opened 16 out of the 35 chapters required for Turkey to join the 28-nation bloc, but only one of them has so far been concluded.
The remarks by the two senior Turkish officials came less than a month after Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) approved a motion urging the European Commission and member states’ governments to halt Turkey’s EU membership negotiations in response to Ankara’s “disproportionate repressive measures” after the last July coup attempt.
The EU membership talks were part of a deal struck between Turkey and the bloc last March to limit the flow of refugees to Europe. Under the agreement, Turkey vowed to take back rejected asylum seekers and patrol borders. In return, the EU pledged financial aid, visa-free travel for Turkish nationals and progress in Turkey’s long-stalled EU membership talks.
Meanwhile, both Erdogan and Cavusoglu said on Monday that they were convinced ties between Ankara and Washington would improve under the government of incoming US President Donald Trump.
“I believe we will accelerate dialogue when Mr. Trump takes office. I believe we will reach a consensus with Mr. Trump, particularly on regional issues, and make rapid headway,” Erdogan said during a meeting with Turkish ambassadors in Ankara.
The Turkish foreign minister, for his part, said he thought the US would “not continue to make the same mistakes it has previously made,” and that, “Turkey and the US are two strategic partners, with potential power to create positive effects in a wide geographical region.”
Relations between the two NATO allies soured in the wake of the abortive coup.
Ankara has been dissatisfied with the outgoing US administration because of the latter’s refusal to extradite a Turkish opposition cleric based in the US back to Turkey. Fethullah Gulen is wanted by Ankara over the accusation that he masterminded the botched coup in Turkey.
Over 240 people were killed and more than 2,100 others injured in the violence, which Gulen has strongly condemned and denied any involvement in. Tens of thousands of people, including military personnel, judges and teachers, have been suspended, dismissed or detained as part of the post-coup crackdown.
International rights groups argue that Ankara’s crackdown has gone far beyond the so-called Gulenists and targeted Kurds as well as government critics.