Erdogan turns to East as Turks remain ‘fixated’ on Europe

Turkish President tells journalists on plane from Uzbekistan that his country can spurn EU to join Shanghai Pact.

Turkey is moving further away from West


2016-11-20 13:15:06




ISTANBUL (Turkey) - President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey should not be "fixated" on joining the EU and has reiterated the idea of joining Russia and China in a Eurasian security group, local media reported Sunday.

His comments come as Turkey's decades-long hopes of joining the European Union have reached a nadir, driven by the aftermath of the July 15 botched coup.

"Turkey should first of all feel relaxed about the EU and not be fixated" about joining it, Erdogan told Turkish journalists on a plane from Uzbekistan, Hurriyet newspaper and other media reported.

"Some may criticise me but I express my opinion. For example, I say 'why shouldn't Turkey be in the Shanghai 5?," he said.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) -- also called the Shanghai Pact -- is a loose security and economic bloc led by Russia and China. Other members are Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Erdogan said he had already discussed the idea with Russian President Vladimir Putin and with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Erdogan has several times floated plans for Turkey to join the SCO, a move that could scupper its long-standing EU membership bid.

The SOC option became clouded, though, when a Russian warplane was downed by the Turkish air force last November.

Turkish media reported in August that Nazarbayev mediated a deal between Ankara and Moscow to smooth over the dispute.

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.

Brussels has harshly criticised the Turkish government's crackdown on alleged coup plotters, urging Ankara to comply with rights and freedoms criteria.

Erdogan this week warned the EU to decide by year's end on its membership bid, threatening to otherwise call a referendum on this matter.

Turkey and the EU agreed to speed up membership talks in March as part of an accord on curbing migrant flows into Greece.

The deal was clinched in return for several incentives for Ankara including EU cash assistance for Syrian refugees in Turkey, as well as visa-free travel to Schengen area by Turks.

But the process, which was already in difficulty, is on a sharp downward spiral following Ankara's crackdown after the attempted coup.

Mass arrests and job dismissals and measures against the Turkish press have triggered a sharp reaction from EU politicians and rights watchdogs.

Some European parliamentarians have even backed calls for membership talks with Ankara to be halted.


Editors' Picks

The Arab Weekly Newspaper reaches Western & Arabic audience that are influential as well as being affluent.

From Europe to the Middle East,and North America, The Arab Weekly talks to opinion formers and influential figures, providing insight and comment on national, international and regional news through the focus of Arabic countries and community.

Published by Al Arab Publishing House

Publisher and Group Executive Editor: Haitham El-Zobaidi, PhD

Editor-in-Chief: Oussama Romdhani

Deputy Editor-in-Chief: Dalal Saoud

Senior Editor: John Hendel

Chief Copy Editors: Jonathan Hemming and Richard Pretorius

Analysis Section Editor: Ed Blanche

Opinion Section Editor: Claude Salhani

East/West Section Editor: Mark Habeeb

Levant Section Editor: Jamal J. Halaby

Gulf Section Editor: Mohammed Alkhereiji

Society and Travel Sections Editor: Samar Kadi

Senior Correspondents:

Mahmud el-Shafey (London)

Lamine Ghanmi (Tunis)

Correspondents

Saad Guerraoui (Casablanca)

Dunia El-Zobeidi (London)

Roua Khlifi (Tunis)

Rasha Elass - Thomas Seibert (Washington)

Published by Al Arab Publishing House

Contact editor at:editor@thearabweekly.com

Subscription & Advertising: Ads@alarab.co.uk

Tel 020 3667 7249

Mohamed Al Mufti

Marketing & Advertising Manager

Tel (Main) +44 20 6702 3999

Direct: +44 20 8742 9262

www.alarab.co.uk

Al Arab Publishing House

Kensington Centre

66 Hammersmith Road

London W14 8UD, UK

Tel: (+44) 20 7602 3999

Fax: (+44) 20 7602 8778

Follow Us
© The Arab Weekly, All rights reserved