Erdogan asks EU 'to keep its promises' over membership, says Turkey future in Europe

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech after cabinet meeting at Presidential Complex in Ankara on November 3, 2020. (AFP)

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

Turkish deployment of a ship to search for gas in 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.

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

"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.

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 comes as EU leaders are 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 and on Saturday, Ankara extended its mission until November 29, 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.

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".

He was not among the first world leaders to congratulate US President-elect Joe Biden however.

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 the US refusal to extradite a Muslim cleric who Erdogan blames for staging a failed 2016 coup.

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Last Update: Saturday, 21 November 2020 KSA 21:23 - GMT 18:23
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