Erdogan says Turkey’s future ‘together with Europe’

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday reached out to the European Union, while warning the bloc not to be manipulated amid escalating tensions over the Eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey’s deployment of a ship to search for gas in Mediterranean waters claimed by Greece has triggered a fierce war of words with EU member states, which early this month extended sanctions against Ankara for another year.

The measures included visa bans and asset freezes against individuals involved in the contested gas exploration.

“We expect the EU to keep its promises, not to discriminate against us or at least not to become a tool to open enmities targeting our country,” Erdogan said in a video address to his ruling party congress, reported AFP.

‘We don’t see ourselves elsewhere but in Europe. We envisage building our future together with Europe’

– Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

At one point Turkey had pursued a track towards EU membership, but it encountered opposition from several EU members and has pulled back under Erdogan’s leadership.

But on Saturday he said: “We don’t see ourselves elsewhere but in Europe. We envisage building our future together with Europe.”

Turkey has no problem with any country or institution “that cannot be resolved through politics, diplomacy or dialogue”, he added. 

Erdogan’s message came as EU leaders were set to decide at a December summit whether to impose further sanctions in response to recent Turkish activity.

Its exploration ship Oruc Reis remains at the centre of tensions with Brussels. On Saturday, Ankara extended its mission until 29 November, despite protests from Athens.

A Greek foreign ministry statement denounced the move as “illegal conduct, which further undermines any prospect for a constructive dialogue. 

“These actions, which essentially cancel any prospect for improving EU-Turkey relations, are taking place while Turkish officials state that their country’s accession to the EU is a ‘strategic priority,'” the ministry said. 

Alliance with the US

In the same speech, Erdogan said Turkey wanted to “actively use its long and close alliance with the United States for a solution to regional and global problems”.

Erdogan had not been among the first world leaders to congratulate US President-elect Joe Biden.

And while he has close ties with President Donald Trump, there have also been tensions between the two countries over several issues.

Turkey’s purchase of a high-tech Russian missile defence system angered Washington, while Ankara has protested against the US’s refusal to extradite a Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen, who Erdogan blames for staging a failed 2016 coup.

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